Israel open to 'serious' truce offer by Hamas
A senior Israeli minister says the country is willing to negotiate a meaningful truce with the radical Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip.world Updated: Dec 21, 2007 17:01 IST
Israel is willing to negotiate a meaningful truce with the radical Islamic Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip, a senior Israeli minister said on Friday.
If Hamas made a "serious" offer, "there will be negotiations", said Infrastructure Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, a member of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's 12-member security cabinet.
He said the offer would have to include a complete end to the daily rocket attacks from the strip, an end to the weapons smuggling through tunnels under the border with Egypt and an immediate resumption of Egyptian-led indirect negotiations on the release of Israeli Corporal Gilad Shalit.
Shalit was captured in a Hamas-led raid on an Israeli army outpost outside the Gaza Strip in June 2006 and has been held in Gaza since, with Hamas demanding the release of hundreds of Palestinian militants from Israeli prisons.
"If a serious offer arrives on the table," Ben-Eliezer, of the leftist coalition Labour Party, told Israel radio, "I would enter into negotiations".
"I can't imagine that (Defence Minister Ehud) Barak would reject it," he said, nor would "the prime minister who I know doesn't reject anything out of hand."
His remarks came after Olmert's office denied a report that Israel is already studying an offer by Hamas for a truce in Gaza, made via Egyptian security officials.
Officials at Olmert's office said there was no change to Israel's policy that it would have no contacts with Hamas as long as the radical Islamic movement refuses to recognise its right to exist, rejects violence and accepts past interim peace deals.