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PM Abbas Invited to Address Knesset

PM Abbas Invited to Address Knesset, amid Flurry of Palestinian – Israeli Ministerial Meetings

Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was invited by the Shinui faction to visit the Israeli Knesset early next week amid a flurry of Palestinian-Israeli ministerial meetings.

The Palestine National Authority (PNA) Minister of Information Nabil Amre said Tuesday that the invitation to PM Abbas has yet to be confirmed by both Palestinian and Israeli sides.

Abbas and the PNA cabinet minister for security affairs Mohammed Dahlan were invited by the Shinui faction Monday to visit the Knesset at the beginning of next week, Israeli daily Haaretz reported.

The visit - which would be the first ever by a Palestinian leader to the Knesset - was
proposed Monday by PNA ministers during a meeting with Shinui Chairman and Justice Minister Yosef (Tommy) Lapid, Haaretz added.

However Lapid has not yet received an official response from Abbas and Dahlan.

PNA minister for cabinet affairs Yasser Abed Rabbo headed the Palestinian delegation while Israeli infrastructure minister Joseph Paritzky represented the Shinui Party delegation.

A press release by the PNA Ministry of Cabinet Affairs Monday said that in addition to Abed Rabbo the Palestinian delegation included cabinet minister of planning Nabil Qasis, MP Qaddura Fares, and Fadel Tahboob and Sama’an Khuri from the Palestinian Peace Coalition.

The meeting discussed ways of cooperation to overcome the obstacles hindering the implementation of the “roadmap” peace plan, the press release said.

Amre, Shalom ‘Define Incitement’

Separately, Palestinian information minister Nabil Amre on Monday held the first meeting in west Jerusalem of a joint committee on preventing incitement with the Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

Amre said working groups would meet on a regular basis to "define incitement and its manifestations,” indicating that this is a two-way mission and that Israeli incitement will be monitored carefully by the Palestinian side.

Shalom on his part acknowledged on Monday that progress had been made.

"I am pleased that in recent days we have seen a measure of positive change in the degree of anti-Israeli incitement and hatred,” Shalom said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting in his Jerusalem office, Shalom said the issue of incitement -- which is included in the international “roadmap” for peace -- was of "supreme importance.”

"A strategic decision is needed to abandon the language of hate and struggle, and to educate towards understanding and coexistence,” he said.

< with ‘Detainees’ Discuss Abdelrazeq and Salah>

Also included in the “roadmap” plan is the issue of over 8,000 Palestinian detainees in the jails of the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF).

On Monday the PNA minister of justice Abdul-Karim Abu Salah and minister of detainees’ affairs Hisham Abdelrazeq met with Israeli minister of justice Tommy Lapid at his offices in occupied east Jerusalem.

The Palestinian ministers warned their Israeli counterparts the peace process would be damaged if all detainees were not freed.

"The release of long-term prisoners from Hamas and Islamic (Jihad) will help our government and strengthen it," said Abdelrazeq.

Israeli government’s criteria announced Sunday excluded members of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) from any planned release of detainees.

The PLO in a statement Monday “called for the unconditional release of all Palestinian detainees” in the jails of the IOF “without restrictions.”

It rejected the Israeli government’s policy of dealing with the issue of Palestinian detainees and all its attempts “to classify them on the basis of their political affiliation or to decide the fate of each of them in accordance with the law of occupation.”

"If the (Israeli) decision isn't changed, it will have a bad effect on the process,” Abdelrazeq added.

Al-Masri, Olmert Set up Trade Committee

In the Italian island of Sicily there was Monday another indication of Palestinian – Israeli thaw.

Palestinian and Israeli trade ministers agreed to promote the peace process through trade, thanks to an Italian-sponsored deal made at a meeting in Sicily.

Palestinian Authority Trade Minister Maher al-Mashri and his Israeli counterpart Ehud Olmert agreed to set up a trilateral trade committee under the auspices of the Italian government in the hope that business might bring the two peoples together.

Italy, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, is to sponsor the agreement.

Simest, an organ for promoting Italian business abroad, will help create companies based at once in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

The agreement was made during the Euro Med forum of trade ministers from the European Union and 10 Mediterranean countries, meeting in the southern Italian island.

"The success of the roadmap depends on an improvement in the Palestinian economy,” said Al-Mashri, referring to the recently signed peace plan designed to end months of violence and bring lasting peace to the Middle East.

"Let's put aside politics and try to build cooperation founded on business,” said Olmert, adding: “We must act quickly.”

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