PA officials: Olmert-Abbas meeting follows agreement to release frozen taxes.
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
PA officials claimed that the meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas took place on Saturday after Israel accepted some of Abbas' demands.
The demands listed included the deployment of the Jordan-based Bader Force, which belongs to the PLO's Palestine Liberation Army, in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, as well as the release of frozen tax revenues belonging to the Palestinians.
"There has been some progress on these two issues," said one official. "Israel has accepted our demands and that led to a breakthrough that paved the way for the meeting."
Another PA official said Abbas urged Olmert to continue with his policy of restraint in the wake of continued rocket attacks on Israel. "The president made it clear that the Palestinians want the cease-fire to continue," the official said. "The Palestinian Authority will do its utmost to prevent the collapse of the cease-fire."
Hamas, whose leaders condemned the meeting, said the talks would not serve the interest of the Palestinians and warned that Israel may exploit the situation to extract political concessions from Abbas.
"We're not pinning any hopes on the meeting," said Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in the Gaza Strip. "These meetings are always aimed at exerting more pressure on the Palestinians. The Israelis always come up with new security-related demands and the Palestinians have nothing to gain from such meetings."
In response to reports that Israel will remove a number of IDF checkpoints in the West Bank, Barhoum said: "The Palestinian cause is not about a checkpoint here of there. Instead of addressing the essence of the problem, which is the occupation, we are today talking about lifting checkpoints or allowing one or two cars to pass through a checkpoint."
The Hamas spokesman also warned Abbas against making concessions to Olmert on the issue of Palestinian prisoners. He said Abbas should not agree to the release of a small number of prisoners in exchange for kidnapped IDF soldier Gilad Shalit.
Hamas legislator Salah Bardaweel, reiterated his movement's offer for a long-term hudna [truce] in return for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on all the territories that were captured by Israel in 1967, including Jerusalem, and the release of all the Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.
He pointed out, however, that Hamas the proposed truce does not mean that Hamas would recognize Israel's right to exist. "We're talking about a phased solution," he explained. "We will never give up our right to the entire land of Palestine."
Speaking to reporters in his office in Ramallah, Abbas described Hamas' offer as a "trick," saying the Palestinians were opposed to the idea of a temporary state. "We want final status negotiations that will lead to a comprehensive and lasting peace with Israel," he said.
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