Israel makes overtures during Rice visit


Israel agreed to remove West Bank roadblocks and made other peace overtures in a meeting with Condoleezza Rice.

The U.S. secretary of state, on her second troubleshooting trip this month, met Sunday with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayad in Jerusalem.

Though Fayad refused to make a joint statement following the meeting, the U.S. issued a statement saying the leaders agreed on “concrete steps.”

Other Israeli steps include building new housing for Palestinians and connecting them to Israel’s electric grid, allowing more Palestinians to work in Israel and giving Palestinian security forces more responsibility in the West Bank. The Palestinians pledged to work to prevent terror in the West Bank.

Rice flew in to Tel Aviv late Saturday and joined Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for dinner. She also will meet with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Though Rice is believed to be hoping for signs of a diplomatic breakthrough that President Bush can unveil when he comes to Israel and the Palestinian Authority in May, she denied seeking to apply pressure on Olmert or Abbas.

“I am not coming to insert American ideas into this process,” Rice told reporters upon her arrival.

Recommended from JTA