Israel will transfer an aid package of medications and equipment worth NIS 50 million (about USD 11 million) to the Palestinian Authority, it was decided at the start of the cabinet meeting Sunday morning.
The move was recommended by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz. "It is clear to the entire world that we really care for the Palestinian population," Olmert said.
Olmert explained that the aid will not be transferred in cash, as the Israeli government continues to refuse to a dialogue with the Hamas-led government.
"As a rule, we have no contact with Hamas, since it is a terror government. There are no ties between the public and ministerial ranks and there won't be any. There are points of friction due to the complex reality. In a place where contact can save lives, we will do it in a way that will not be interpreted as recognition of the Hamas government," the prime minister said.
After meeting, Olmert to leave for Washington
At 2 p.m. Sunday, Olmert is set to leave for Washington on Sunday for his first official trip as head of the country. During his meeting with American President George W. Bush, scheduled for Tuesday, Olmert will introduce to US officials his convergence plan for an Israeli withdrawal in the West Bank.
Sources close to the PM believe that while Olmert will enjoy a public show of support from his host, the American president will avoid voicing backing for the unilateral pullout plan.
Diplomatic officials said that at this point the US administration prefers to see the Israelis and Palestinians engaging in dialogue, and wish to see Palestinian Chairman Mahmoud Abbas gaining in strength.
Israel, however, still expects Bush to make an official announcement regarding Israel's right for "defensible borders," as stated in the United Nations' resolutions 242 and 338.
Another issue the talks are set to focus on is the Iranian nuclear threat.