Israeli deputy PM praises peace path with Palestinians

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert affirmed Monday that the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and part of the northern West Bank was the first step in a path that could lead to peace with the Palestinians, according to Israel Radio.

"There's a feeling that for the first time, carefully and responsibly, we are forging a path that could lead to significant advancements toward peace," Olmert said in an interview with the radio in a pre-Rosh Hashanah (Jewish new year).

"I think we're going to have to expand this path in the coming year," he said, refusing to comment on whether Israel would replicate its unilateral pullout, but said that it would operate in the framework of the internationally brokered road map.

Olmert said he thought the Palestinians were beginning to realize they have to combat terror. "They will have to fight terror if they desire life, and they are now, perhaps, beginning to understand the significance of these matters."

"It will take them time, but I think that if it continues along this path, then it is very likely that the year 2006 will really be a year in which we take a path that could lead to a major change," he added.

Meanwhile, Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres also called the disengagement the best event that happened this year, according to Xinhua.

Photo: the AP

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