During his Thursday meeting with the U.S Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, Israeli Defense Minister, Amir Peretz, said that easing restrictions imposed on the Palestinians is an Israeli security interest, and that Israel, according to Peretz, wants to make allowances to the Palestinian residents on humanitarian grounds.

Peretz also said that negations can only be accelerated if the Palestinian fighters release the abducted Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. 

Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that Peretz’s request came as he responded to a request by Rice that Israel should ease restrictions imposed on the border crossings of the Gaza Strip in order to ease the commerce movement and the entry of good in and out of the Gaza Strip.

Meanwhile, during a Thursday morning meeting with Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, Rice said that the economic boycott on the Hamas-led Palestinian government is “effective”, adding that the international community will continue in maintaining the boycott.

All international aid to the Palestinian Authority was suspended after the Hamas party achieved an overwhelming victory in the January 2006 elections.  

On Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, rejected a request by Abbas to release Palestinian detainees before a meeting between the two.

Olmert said that he “would not authorize this issue as long as Shalit remains in captivity”.

He stressed that Israel will not release any detainee before the captured soldier is freed and returned to Israel.

Also, Olmert claimed that if Israel releases detainees, Hamas will increase its demands in exchange for Shalit.

Moreover, Rice asked Olmert during their meeting that took place in Olmert’s resident, to take steps that would strengthen Abbas, Israeli sources reported.

Olmert said that Israel will “soon” open that Karni commercial crossing, and the Rafah Border Crossing, for the holy Muslim month of Ramadan.

On Thursday morning, Rice met with Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, and told her that the economic blockade over the Palestinian government is “effective”.

Rice added that the “international community” would continue the blockade to pressure the Hamas-led Palestinian government.