A meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is not on Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's agenda, at least as long as Palestinian terror continues, Italian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini was told Tuesday.
"A Qassam rocket was launched again at Sderot last night. We are at war, and are fighting terror. A meeting with Abbas cannot be held in such a situation," a source in Sharon's office reportedly told the Italian official.
Sharon's associates told Ynet that the meeting between the prime minister and Abbas, which was meant to take place ten days ago, has been postponed indefinitely because of a recent surge in Palestinian violence. A suicide bomber struck the coastal town of Hadera last weeking killing four Israelis and injuring another 20.
Israel responded with a military operation vowing to irradicate Islamic Jihad, the Palestinian terror group that masterminded the attack.
The level of diplomatic negotiations between Israel and the PA has been reduced to a minimum, a source said.
Palestinians slam Sharon
Palestinian Planning Minister Ghassan Khatib told Ynet, in response to Sharon's statement that "these words are a continuation of Sharon's policy, and of his refusal to meet with the Palestinians."
"The war on violence necessitates a strengthening of the ties between the two leaders. Halting the relations will lead to an escalation in violence," Khatib said.
He accused the current Israeli government of adopting a unilateral policy towards the Palestinians in order to avoid negotiations with the PA.
Speaking at a news conference in Ramallah Khatib said that “seven weeks have passed since the completion of the pullout and we remain pessimistic about things.” Khatib lamented the dire economic situation in Gaza warning that poverty will lead to more violence and extremism.
The Palestinian minister voiced claims by international observers that an alleviation on the freedom of movement of the Palestinians between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will improve the economic situation of the populace and reduce violence.
“Yet what as been happening over the last two months confirmed suspicions by the World Bank feared --- restriction of movement only increase unemployment and poverty in Gaza,” he said.
He refuted Israel’s claim that the restrictions of movement imposed on Palestinians stem form security concerns, saying the Jewish State “is concerned with controlling the Palestinians and their economy.”
Ali Waked contributed to this report