Barak, Fayyad discuss West Bank security


Israel’s defense minister discussed West Bank security measures with the Palestinian Authority prime minister.

Ehud Barak hosted Salam Fayyad at his Tel Aviv home late Wednesday for talks on the Palestinian Authority’s efforts to show Israel and the international community that it can impose order in the West Bank after losing the Gaza Strip to Hamas.

Barak said earlier that Israel would offer to approve the transfer of equipment such as armored cars to Palestinian Authority security forces whose deployment in the West Bank is soon to be expanded. Also on the agenda was an Israeli proposal to issue hundreds of travel permits to Palestinian businessmen.

Barak’s office gave no details on what was agreed in the meeting but quoted the defense minister as telling Fayyad that “Israel will proceed with measures to ease conditions for the population of Judea and Samaria while maintaining our supreme commitment to the security of Israeli civilians.”

Fayyad had no immediate comment. Palestinian Authority officials described Barak as “forthcoming” during the talks but said they wanted to see if Israel would implement its goodwill gestures.

The Palestinian Authority has demanded more sweeping concessions from Israel such as the removal of West Bank checkpoints, but Barak has called these a vital counter-terrorist measure.

Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu accused the Olmert government of endangering Israel by arming Palestinian Authority security forces which have yet to prove their ability to fight terror.

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