JERUSALEM (Oct. 23)
Arriving in Cairo on Sunday for the first high-level meeting with Palestinian leaders since last week’s suicide bombing of a bus in downtown Tel Aviv, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel would continue its negotiations with the Palestinians.
But, Peres added, Israel would press the Palestinian Authority to crack down on Muslim radicals attempting to destroy the peace initiative.
“We expect that the Palestinians, like our-selves, will stop the ones who want to kill the agreement between us from executing their will,” Peres said prior to meeting with chief Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath.
Before attending a session of the Israeli-Palestinian Liaison Committee, the steering group overseeing the two sides’ negotiations, Peres met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to discuss Israel’s security concerns in the wake of the Oct. 19 bus bombing in Tel Aviv that left 22 dead.
After meeting with Mubarak, Peres stressed that the peace agreement Israel and Jordan reached last week will not lead the Israeli government to postpone or ignore its relations with the Palestinians.
But he said he expected the Palestinian leadership to move against Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas, which claimed responsibility for last week’s bombing and which have to date operated largely with impunity from bases in the Gaza Strip, which fell under Palestinian control in May.
MEMBERS OF HAMAS DETAINED
Sha’ath meanwhile complained about Israel’s closure of Gaza and the West Bank last week after the bus bombing occurred.
The closure has prevented thousands of Palestinians from working in Israel — a measure, Sha’ath said, that amounted to collective punishment of innocent Palestinian workers and which could undermine the peace process.
“This closure means siege and starvation for Palestinians,” Sha’ath said Sunday.
“We want a quick solution because things cannot continue as they are,” Sha’ath added. “The problem is that Israel is closing the borders whenever it feels like it.”
In Israel, meanwhile, security forces detained several dozen Hamas members in the wake of the suicide bombing.
“Security forces have acted against several dozen people linked to the attacker,” Economics Minister Shimon Shetreet said after the Cabinet meeting.
“There are some difficulties in the undertaking because some of the people whose names are on the list left their homes, but our people will apprehend them, and no one will go unpunished,” he said.
Following last week’s closure of Gaza and the West Bank, the Cabinet agreed Sunday to import some 15,000 foreign workers in construction and 4,000 in ### replace the Palestinians now barred from entering Israel.
The Cabinet also agreed to mete out heavy penalties to Israelis who hire Palestinians who have no work permits.
Agriculture Minister Yakov Tsur was critical of the closure and the decision to bring in more foreign workers to augment the 26,000 laborers who already have permission to work in Israel until the end of the year.
“No doubt the closure will impose hardship on the residents of the territories,” Tsur said after the Cabinet session. “We have to take into account the problems of our (Palestinian) partner, not just our own problems.”