Iran, Hamas Top Agenda for US-Israel Talks

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said on Tuesday that Israel would separate from the Palestinians and hold onto large West Bank settlement blocs.

He made the comments as his foreign minister prepared to meet with administration officials in Washington on Wednesday.

Foreign Minister Tzippi Livni is the highest-ranking Israeli official to visit Washington since Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a debilitating stroke on January 4 and Hamas won an overwhelming victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections on January 25.

The Iranian nuclear threat and the Hamas victory in Palestinian parliamentary elections will top the agenda in meetings between Livni and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Congressional leaders, sources in Jerusalem said.

Livni, who met with Jordan's King Abdullah in Washington on Tuesday, urged the international community to maintain its pressure on Hamas and not recognize the organization until it fulfills international demands.

The U.S. and European Union have said they will not continue funding the Palestinian Authority if it is run by Hamas, unless the militant organization renounces terrorism, recognizes Israel and stops calling for the destruction of the Jewish state.

"It is important for us that the international community speaks in a loud and clear voice on this issue and that it does not go don't the slippery slope the Palestinians are trying to drag everyone," Livni said.

Hamas leaders are in Cairo for talks about forming the next Palestinian Authority government. Reports said that Hamas leaders demanded control over three P.A. security branches but were refused by P.A. Chairman Mahmoud Abbas.

Although Abbas' Fatah faction has been responsible for a number of terror attacks in recent years, Fatah formally advocates a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Hamas, which won an overwhelming majority of seats in parliamentary elections two weeks ago and will likely form the next P.A. government, is opposed to any negotiated settlement with Israel and wants to establish an Islamic state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea - encompassing the Gaza Strip, West Bank and all of Israel.


Olmert indicated on Tuesday that he would not wait forever for the Palestinians to negotiate. He said he would push for further unilateral withdrawals from territory.

"We will separate from the majority of the Palestinian population that lives in Judea and Samaria, and it will obligate us to leave territories where Israel is today," Olmert said in a television interview.

Olmert indicated that Israel would maintain a "united Jerusalem" and hang onto the Jordan Valley as well as the large West Bank settlement blocs (Maaleh Adumim and Gush Etzion outside of Jerusalem and Ariel outside of Tel Aviv) that Ariel Sharon also indicated he would retain.

Former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, number two on the Kadima list and architect of the Oslo negotiating process with the Palestinians, said in a radio interview on Wednesday that he supported Olmert's plan.

Up and coming

Livni, who was appointed to her post following Sharon's strooke, competed with Acting Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for the number two spot in the Kadima party, which Sharon founded just six weeks before he collapsed.

After Sharon suffered his first, mild stroke in December, he made it clear that Olmert would succeed him in any emergency situation. After Sharon's debilitating stroke, Livni agreed to allow veteran politician Shimon Peres take the number two spot in Kadima in exchange for the spot of foreign minister, reports said.

Livni, a lawyer by profession, was elected as a parliamentarian in the Likud party in 1999 and quickly rose through the ranks to become a government minister in 2001.

She left Likud and joined Sharon when he formed his Kadima party, which he said he established to reach an accord with the Palestinians.

Married and a mother of two, she is the daughter of the late Likud Knesset Member Eitan Livni and served as an officer in the Israeli army and in Israel's secret service, the Mossad.

Targeted Killings

The security situation for Israelis remains as tense as ever, as Israeli forces shelled the northern Gaza Strip in response to continued Kassam rocket fire on Israeli communities.

One armed Palestinian was killed and a second wounded on Wednesday near the Karni Gaza Strip crossing when the army opened fire on a group of armed Palestinians in a forbidden zone. The Palestinians may have been planning to plant a bomb, the army said.

Nine Palestinian have been killed in four targeted killings in as many days. Israel said the men all were involved in some stage of the rocket launching process.

The Israeli army stepped up its battle against the Palestinian rocket fire after four people, including a baby, were wounded in a Kassam attack last Friday.

Secretary General Kofi Annan condemned Israel's targeted killings as tantamount to "executions without trial."

"Israel already made it clear to the Palestinian Authority that it will not tolerate continued rocket attacks," responded David Baker, an official in the prime minister's office.

"We will take the necessary steps, including initiated action on our part to bring about the cessation of attacks," he said.

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