Security minister airs doubts on talks

A senior member of Ehud Olmert’s government came out against the prime minister’s negotiations with the Palestinians.

Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter, a top member of Israel’s ruling Kadima Party, voiced public doubt Wednesday that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas can deliver security as part of a future peace accord.

Speaking to Channel 10 television, Dichter said that Abbas, who lost the Gaza Strip to Hamas last year, has no guarantee of remaining in charge in the West Bank.

“We must not permit the establishment of a Hamas terrorist entity in Judea and Samaria,” Dichter said.

“The talks with the Palestinians about Gaza are in a state of brain death. As for Judea and Samaria, I’d describe it as respiratory death.”

Olmert and Abbas revived peace talks under U.S. auspices last year and are trying to reach an accord by January, when President Bush leaves office.

But with progress lagging, aides to the Israeli prime minister have suggested he and Abbas might settle for an agreement in principle whose implementation would be left to the next U.S. administration.

Sounding a rare note of rebellion, Dichter said, “I won’t lend a hand to an initiative of that kind.”

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