Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Blair: Netanyahu government can hold successful peace talks

(Ynet).Mideast Quartet envoy Tony Blair said Tuesday he believed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government was capable of conducting successful peace negotiations with the Palestinians.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the reopening of the Jalame crossing, north of the West Bank city of Jenin, to civilian vehicles, Blair said three things are required to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict: Politicians, economic growth and security.

The crossing is the joint initiative of Gilboa Regional Council head Danny Atar and Jenin governor Kadura Musa.

The Jalame checkpoint was closed in 2000, shortly after the al-Aqsa Intifada began. Nevertheless, the close relationship between Musa and Atar has proven useful; eventually leading to the checkpoint's reopening. Hundreds of vehicles are expected to pass through it daily.

Israel and the Palestinians estimate that the crossing's reopening will boost the economic situation in Jenin.

Regional Development Minister Silvan Shalom was also on hand for the ceremony, along with Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai and Minorities Minister Avishay Braverman.

Shalom, who also serves as vice prime minister, said Israel was eager to resume negotiations but added that "it takes two to tango."

"We all want to make the Palestinians' lives easier, but this has to be mutual," said the minister. "They'll fight terror and confiscate weapons while we will promote joint projects."

Shalom added that "currently there are no Palestinian commitments; things do not look too good."

Addressing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, the Israeli vice prime minister said, "We are wasting time; now is the time to reach a decision or else we may miss the chance for peace."