Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz promised Thursday that Israel would transfer millions of U. S. dollars of tax revenues to the Palestinians if the kidnapped Israeli soldier is released.
Peretz made the promise in a meeting with visiting U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday morning, during which the defense minister said that it is in Israel's security interests to improve economic situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
"The key to releasing funds to the Palestinian (National) Authority is tied to the issue of returning Gilad Shalit home and to other issues that are part of our conditions, such as the halt of Qassams (rockets) and violence against communities in the Gaza area," Peretz said.
"I see the improvement of living conditions in the (Palestinian) territories and assistance with the humanitarian crisis as part of Israel security needs," he added.
Referring to the possibility of reviving peace talks with the Palestinians, Peretz said "the situation in the (PNA) authority is very sensitive and volatile. We need to wait and see how things develop."
Peretz thanked Rice for Washington's support for Israel during the July-August Lebanese war and for agreeing to increase defense cooperation between the two countries.
He also stressed the importance of fully implementing United Nations Resolution 1701 on the July-August Lebanese war as well as the issue of securing the border crossings between Syria and Lebanon.
Earlier in the day, Rice met with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni who stated that the weapons embargo on Lebanese Hezbollah must be enforced.
Throughout her visit in the Middle East this week, Rice has emphasized her intention to rally moderate elements in the region, bolster the embattled PNA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in his struggles with the militant Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and consult with Arab allies on Iran's nuclear program and the turmoil in Iraq.