Participants included diplomats and public figures who discussed the situation in Israel and the Palestinian Authority following the Mecca agreement.
Leading Fatah official and former PA minister Qadura Fares was amongst the conference’s participants.
Fares recently met with Hamas politburo chief Khaled Mashaal in Damascus. According to Fares, Mashaal said he was willing to give Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas a full mandate as head of the PLO in order to negotiate with Israel and to reach two goals; the first, to establish a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, and the second, to implement United Nations resolution 194 regarding the refugees.
Fares also commented on the situation of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. According to him, Shalit was “alive and well, and needs to return safely to his family, just as thousands of Palestinians need to return safely to their families”. Fares added that he discussed the issue with Mashaal during their meeting.
The former PA minister said he was not optimistic about next week’s meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and Abbas.
Geneva Initiative conference in Tel Aviv (Photo: Yaron Brener)
“The Palestinian people are tired of being let down after every meeting. There is always hope and talk, but things only get worse,” Fares said. He gave the example of Olmert’s last meeting with Abbas, when there was talk of removing roadblocks, but instead the number of roadblocks increased.
Fares said the roadblocks had nothing to do with the safety of Israel, and that they were only a means of collective punishment and provocation that did not contribute anything positive to the situation.
‘Take Saudi initiative seriously’
Housing and Construction Minister Meir Sheetrit called on Olmert to take the Saudi initiative seriously.
According to Sheetrit, moderate Arab states had an interest in making peace with Israel because of their fear of Iran and its regional power. “These countries are more fearful of Iran than Israel, and the only way to isolate it is to make peace with Israel,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Sheetrit said he opposed negotiations with the PA unity government because Hamas refused to acknowledge Israel.
MK Colette Avital (Labor-Meimad) also participated in the conference and said that many Knesset ministers supported talks with Syria, although a united front had yet to be formed.
Meretz-Yahad Chairman MK Yossi Beilin called on Knesset members to act on the situation sooner rather than later saying there was “no ideological debate and eventually we will return to 1967 borders more or less”.