Rice Wants More Israeli Goodwill Terrorist Releases
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's freeing of nearly 200 Arab terrorists the day before was a "good step" but not enough. "Obviously there is more that needs to be done… Both sides continue to have work to do," she told reporters before landing at Ben Gurion Airport on Tuesday.
However, her only specific suggestions were aimed at Israel, which she said should remove more roadblocks and checkpoints, which were set up in Judea and Samaria to prevent unrestricted mobility for terrorists. She made no comments on obligations by the Palestinian Authority (PA) to fight terror but previously has said its American-trained police forces are proving it can maintain law and order.
Concerning freeing more terrorists, Secretary Rice reminded Israel, "It is something that Abu Mazen [PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas] brings up each time we meet. It is something that matters a lot to the Palestinian people.''
Abbas headed the celebrations on Monday that welcomed home 198 terrorists, including two murderers. Israel has freed 700 terrorists the past year in "goodwill" measures aimed at bolstering Abbas's Fatah-led government. "I see 198 heroes," said Abbas, who added that there will be no peace until thousands of other prisoners and terrorists are released, including Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prisons. He organized several deadly attacks on Israelis and is considered the most popular figure among PA Arabs.
Israel removed three major roadblocks in the past month in addition to 100 other roadblocks and checkpoints that were eliminated previously under pressure from Secretary Rice.
She will meet Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Tuesday morning for breakfast and then sit down for discussions with Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and senior PA negotiator Ahmed Qureia. She will leave Israel for the United States after traveling to Ramallah for talks with Abbas.