Israel’s Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has offered to recognize an “independent and viable Palestinian state … with full sovereignty and defined borders” in exchange for a new Palestinian government, the recognition of Israel, a renewed commitment to the “road map” and the release of a captured Israeli soldier.

As part of the deal, Israel would withdraw from the West Bank, relax movement restrictions and release Palestinian prisoners.

The Times:

“When Gilad Schalit is released and returned to his family, safe and sound, the Government of Israel will be willing to release numerous Palestinian prisoners — including ones who were sentenced to lengthy prison terms,” Mr. Olmert said.

The Prime Minister infuriated right-wing critics by offering to reduce roadblocks, evacuate “many territories” in the West Bank and look forward to an “independent and viable Palestinian state … with full sovereignty and defined borders.”

The key to a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian dialogue is talks in Cairo between Hamas’ supreme leader, Khaled Mashaal, and Egyptian mediators. They are trying to broker a deal that would secure the release of Corporal Schalit in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and lead to the formation of a Palestinian national unity government.

In Israel, right-wingers criticised Mr. Olmert’s overtures. Yuval Steinitz, a Likud MP, said: “The Prime Minister is offering hills and mountains … to a Hamas Government and parliament which breached all agreements and ceasefires.”

However, Mohammed Eid Shubair, the academic widely tipped to take over from the Hamas leader Ismail Haniya as prime minister, confirmed that a government led by him would allow President Abbas to negotiate with Israel.


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