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Olmert Recognizes PA Flag

Many in Israel and abroad were surprised when the flags of the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority flew side-by-side for the first time, at the official Prime Minister’s Residence.
By Hana Levi Julian
First Publish: 12/29/2006, 11:15 AM / Last Update: 12/28/2006, 6:37 PM

For the first time in the history of the State of Israel, the red, black, green and white flag of the Palestinian Authority stood next to the official state flag of Israel bearing the blue Jewish Star flanked by two stripes on its field of white, last Saturday Night.

It was the first of several surprises.

The meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas came days earlier than expected, with government spokesmen saying security concerns had advanced the meeting and delayed the announcement.

Several agreements were ironed out within that first meeting. These included the release of $100 million in frozen tax money for the PA, loosening of travel restrictions on PA Arabs in Judea and Samaria and increasing the number of permits for them to work inside Israel's pre-1967 borders.

In addition to the usual smiling photo ops, both men seemed intent on creating a message of unity, warmth and formal diplomacy.

The Jewish Prime Minister addressed Abu Mazen – Abbas’s nom de guerre – as “Mr. President.” Until now, Abbas has been referred to as the PA Chairman.

With that appellation and a kiss on each cheek, Olmert launched a new era of diplomatic relations for the PA leader, prompting the New York-based Jewish Daily Forward to comment that it appeared to be a meeting of two heads of state.

Forward writer Gershon Gorenberg wrote in his analysis that it was hard to tell which man needed the other more, describing them as “flailing in stormy waters, but which man was drowning, which was rescuing him and did the rescue stand a chance of success?”

Even as Abbas spoke publicly of the importance of upholding the limited ceasefire agreement, his ability to control those who are launching the Kassam rocket attacks is questionable.

The Islamic Jihad terror organization, which has vowed to continue its assaults against Israeli communities, made good on its threat just three days after the PA flag waved in the Jerusalem wind.

Two boys in Sderot were severely injured in a Kassam attack on Tuesday, the 57th missile to be fired at Israel since the truce went into effect last month. Terrorists also succeeded in scoring a direct hit on a strategic facility in the southern coastal city of Ashkelon, a more frequent target in recent months.

President Moshe Katzav visited Barzilai Medical Center in Ashkelon onThursday and comforted 14-year-old Adir Basad, who was critically wounded inTuesday’s attack. The boy regained consciousness Thursday morning and his condition has improved.

The Basad family asked the president to take action that would lead to a proper response to the Kassams. The IDF was told Wednesday that it would be allowed to use “pinpoint operations” to destroy terrorist cells in the act of launching Kassam attacks.

The government resolved to continue the ceasefire with the terrorists, despite the increasing violations by terrorist rocket crews, but to take action against specific Kassam cells when they are detected.