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Israel/OPT: Vice Premier Peres meets with Special Quartet Envoy for the Disengagement Wolfensohn

Israeli Vice Premier Shimon Peres met with Special Quartet Envoy for the Disengagement James Wolfensohn today. During their one-hour meeting, the two discussed the civilian and economic issues related to the disengagement with a focus on the passages, transfer of assets and economic development.

At the press conference following the meeting, Vice Prime Minister Peres stated:

"There is an understanding that the need to coordinate civilian and economic issues is as burning if not more, than security issues, in relation to the disengagement. We must think about the way we shall depart from Gaza and the 'day after'. There are urgent problems on the table - the issue of the borders between Gaza and Egypt, Gaza and Israel, as well as Gaza and the West Bank, and Jordan. On the issue of the passages, there are different options - with pros and cons for each. I am glad a man of such great experience as James Wolfensohn can help us in making the right choices.

"We must lay the foundation for a reasonable economy in Gaza, as what will happen in Gaza will affect the security, economy and mood in Israel as well. Our interest is to see Gaza in better shape.... We hope to reach an agreement on several decisions by consent, consideration and by daily activity.

"I once again want to express my thankfulness to James Wolfensohn for his involvement, care, and knowledge...."

Wolfensohn stated as well that the next few days will be "extremely important." He added that Israelis and Palestinians should think not only about negotiations but also about reality, the future. There is an economic and political balance that needs to be found and it is near at hand. There is a need for both sides to understand that the economic and social development of the West Bank and Gaza is part of Israel's security. It is not an issue of the Palestinians taking advantage of Israel or Israel giving a gift to the Palestinians. It is an issue of "common purpose."

The issue of the passages is intertwined with a future of dignity and hope for the Palestinians and security for Israel. There must be a balance between economics, future and hope, as well as security. "We want a future of hope for the Palestinians and peace for the Israelis," Wolfensohn added. We want a future of hope and wisdom for both sides, to reach equilibrium to allow Israeli and Palestinian children to live in peace. "This is a moment of destiny."