Israel's goodwill measures met with distrust

Israel is trying to win favour among Palestinians ahead of a Middle East Peace conference in the U.S. next week. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has authorised a major arms shipment to the West Bank and has given the green light for the release of more than 40

Fifty nations and organisations are taking part in the talks in Annapolis, Maryland.  They begin on Tuesday and are aimed at ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.  The negotiations are the first core-issue talks between the two sides in seven years.
 
The Israeli Prime Minister needs to show the Palestinian leadership he’s serious about peace. But on the other hand he has his country’s security to consider.
 
He came under fire this week for authorising a shipment of 50 armoured vehicles and a thousand rifles to the Palestinian police in the West Bank.
 
He also approved the deployment of 300 more Palestinian policemen to help secure the West Bank city of Nablus. They’re charged with fighting ordinary crime, collecting illegal weapons and searching cars.
 
Palestinian Police officer Omar Afaneh says the moves are just a show ahead of the peace conference. 
 
“I don’t think Israel is helping the situation because their nightly raids undermine our work and lead many Palestinians to believe that there is co-operation between the Palestinian police and Israeli army – which makes our job more difficult,” Afaneh said.
 
Israel says the deployment that took six weeks to implement is meant to help Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas control the volatile city.
 
Ever since Hamas took over Gaza earlier this year, Abbas’ security forces have been tightening their grip over West Bank cities.
 
Many of the illegal weapons being confiscated belong to Hamas supporters.
 
But Israel too stands to benefit from the beefed-up police presence. The Israeli army is in a heightened state of alert ahead of next week’s Middle East Peace summit in the U.S. city of Annapolis.  It fears an extremist group will carry out a terror attack aimed at derailing the peace talks.
 
Ghassan Al-Masre  from the Canaan Media And Research Centre says the extra police is for the benefit of the Israelis.
 
“The siege and closure around Nablus is still very hard for the people. Annapolis needs to bring changes to the street. Israel must do something real for the Palestinians so that they will go with them to Annapolis,” Al-Masre said.
 
On Sunday, 441 Palestinian prisoners will be released from Israeli jails. Whether or not this final move will convince the Palestinians of the Israeli Prime Minister’s good intentions is unclear. But Olmert is hoping the gestures will work.