December 18, 2008
Briefs: Quartet says Palestinian-Israeli Agreement ‘Irreversible’
Quartet: Palestinian-Israeli Agreement 'Irreversible'
Palestinian-Israeli peace gains are "irreversible," the international grouping guiding the peace process said.
"The Quartet expressed its considered view that the bilateral negotiations process launched at Annapolis is irreversible and that these negotiations should be intensified in order to put an end to the conflict and to establish as soon as possible the state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security with Israel," said the statement that emerged Monday after the foreign minister-level meeting in New York of the members of the Quartet -- the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
"Annapolis" refers to the renewed talks spurred by the Bush administration a year ago in Maryland.
Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli opposition leader leading in the polls ahead of Feb. 10 elections, has rejected some of the Annapolis tenets, particularly its prescription for Palestinian statehood as soon as possible. It's not clear where the talks now stand, but Ehud Olmert, the scandal-tainted prime minister whose resignation led to new elections, has said that Israelis will have to settle for two states more or less on 1967 lines and sharing Jerusalem.
President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who attended Monday's meeting, have said they want talks as advanced as possible when they hand over the administration next month to President-elect Barack Obama.
The statement also:
High Court Rejects New Fence Route
Israel's Supreme Court rejected a new route for part of the security fence, saying it juts too far into the West Bank.
Israel had proposed a route near the Arab village of Bilin following a High Court of Justice ruling last year that the fence should be moved closer to Israel.
The court rejected the revised plans Monday, saying the route still placed too much Palestinian land on the Israeli side of the fence. Bilin's Palestinian residents say the security fence hampers access to their farmlands.
Bilin attorney Michael Sfard told the Jerusalem Post that the ruling would affect other court challenges against the security fence.
There are weekly left-wing protests of the Bilin fence.
Israel Releases Palestinian Prisoners
Israel released more than 200 Palestinian prisoners. The release began Monday at noon, with most of the prisoners transferred from Ofer Prison, near Jerusalem, to a West Bank checkpoint. The others were scheduled to be sent from Shikma Prison in the Negev to the Erez checkpoint in Gaza.
Some 227 Palestinian prisoners were set to be freed, but the release of three was still under review.
Israel's High Court of Justice canceled a temporary injunction against the release, following several petitions claiming it would cause more terrorism and that some of the prisoners had "blood on their hands."
The release was a confidence-building measure for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas in honor of a Muslim holiday. All of the prisoners belong to factions that support the Palestinian Authority and its leadership. None are associated with Hamas, according to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
"Our joy will be complete only when all 11,000 Palestinians imprisoned in Israel will be released," Abbas said during celebrations to welcome the prisoners home.
There were no celebrations in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, according to Ynet, since none of the released prisoners were members of Hamas.
-- Briefs courtesy Jewish Telegraphic Agency.