Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas control of two more West Bank towns in the next two weeks if the PA shows concerted efforts to control violence by militant groups according to a report published by the 'Jerusalem Post.' In addition, Sharon offered to allow some deportees to return to the West Bank and to release more Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails.
The two towns offered were Bethlehem and Qalqiliya. Sharon reiterated to Abbas that terror attacks by militant groups reduce public support in Israel for the Gaza withdrawal plan.
In the past week, the militant group Islamic Jihad has launched repeated rocket and mortar attacks at Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip and in southern Israel. Islamic Jihad is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. Israel arrested 52 Islamic Jihad members Tuesday morning including many suspected leaders of the group.
Israel has criticized the Palestinian Authority for not cracking down on militant groups. Mr. Abbas has tried to negotiate with militants rather than confront them and disarm them as is required by the U.S.-backed 'road map' peace plan.
The two leaders are continuing to negotiate in Jerusalem as the summit continues.