Mideast leaders to address core issues

Updated: 2008-01-09 09:50

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials said their decision to begin work on the conflict's deepest issues was influenced by the Bush visit.

The Palestinians are furious about Israeli plans to build new housing in east Jerusalem and the West Bank -- areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war and claimed by the Palestinians for their future state.

Israel, for its part, has demanded that Palestinian forces do more to rein in militants in the West Bank. Since Olmert and Abbas last met, two Israelis were killed in the West Bank, and Israeli security forces blame members of Abbas' Fatah movement.

"The Palestinians need to do everything they can to fight terror. Israel frankly needs to look at its road map obligations and to do nothing that would prejudge the final status agreement," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will be accompanying Bush, told Israel's Channel 10 TV.

The U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan requires Israel to freeze settlement construction and the Palestinians to crack down on militants.

During Tuesday's meeting, the Palestinians called on Israel to halt settlement activity and urged Israel to stop carrying out military operations such as last week's raids on the West Bank city of Nablus, saying it damaged Abbas' credibility on the Palestinian street.

Israel says it cannot relinquish security responsibilities to the Palestinians because they are not ready.

Further casting a shadow over peace efforts is the Hamas militant group's control of the Gaza Strip. Hamas seized the area last June after routing Abbas' forces.

The group, which is committed to Israel's destruction, opposes the US-led peace efforts. While talking peace with Abbas, Israel conducts military operations in Gaza almost every day to halt rocket-launching squads. Dozens of militants have been killed in recent weeks.

In Gaza, Hamas said it would hold a rally against the Bush visit on Wednesday.

"You killer of children, go. You are not welcome in the Holy Land," Hamas said in a leaflet.

Israeli hardliners critical of Bush's peace efforts put up posters on a main Jerusalem road showing Bush, Olmert and Israeli President Shimon Peres wearing traditional Arab headdresses, under the title, "Accomplices to Terror." Police said they detained six people who put up the posters for questioning.

Israeli police, meanwhile, were preparing for a major deployment for Bush's visit. In all, 10,500 police, including 9,000 brought in from other areas of the country, will be stationed across the city, police chief Micky Rosenfeld said.

Main streets across Jerusalem were to be closed at midnight, snarling traffic for the city's 750,000 residents.

The military said that as an added security precaution it was barring all entry to Israel by Palestinians, from midnight Tuesday until after Bush leaves Friday.

In the West Bank town of Ramallah, Abbas' headquarters were painted inside and out, and a main courtyard was repaved.

   1 2   

Top World News  
Today's Top News  
Most Commented/Read Stories in 48 Hours