- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2007

NEW YORK (Reuters) — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday that Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank could expect dramatic changes for the better under a new emergency administration, an aide said.

Mr. Olmert met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the beginning of a three-day visit to the United States. He will meet President Bush tomorrow.

“We can expect a dramatic change in access and movement of Palestinians in the West Bank,” an aide to the prime minister quoted him as telling Mr. Ban during their meeting in New York.

Israel will be a serious partner if there will be a serious partner in the West Bank. Israel will give tax money to a serious and responsible government.”

Israel has withheld about $700 million in tax revenues that it has collected over the past year for the Palestinian Authority.

Palestinians also have complained of Israeli military restrictions on their movements as a major hindrance in daily life.

Israel and Western countries have said they will maintain an economic and diplomatic embargo of the Islamist Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip after its violent takeover of the coastal territory in the past few days.

The aide added that Mr. Olmert told the U.N. chief that Israel would not get involved in the situation in Gaza but would deliver humanitarian assistance, if needed.

“We will take into consideration all humanitarian needs in Gaza,” the aide quoted Mr. Olmert as saying. “We will not intervene, we will not move forces, but we will not stand by and say that the lives of innocent civilians are not our concern.”