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Arafat Outsmarts Israel In Peace Talk Diplomacy

by Selwyn Manning

Shrewd diplomacy by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has seen leading western nations fall in behind his call for peace between Israel and Palestinians. Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon now faces a dilema: accept Arafat as "the peacemaker" or be politically hammered by the west for contemptuously refusing his foe's peace-offering.

Arafat dealt a clever hand this past week, seizing his opportunity to get superpower western nations in behind Palestinian calls for peace talks to resume.

Israeli Prime Minister, and right-wingers within his cabinet, have been seen as the aggressors in this age old war between the two peoples.

Forty-seven years ago, Ariel Sharon led a raid on a West Bank village that killed about 70 men, women and children, most of them civilians. The villagers and the PLO have not forgotten. Likewise Arafat and the PLO are the focus and cause of many Israeli fears and deaths.

But while trust between the two is virtually at ground-zero, Arafat has managed to instil a fragile peace throughout the West Bank and Gaza area. Where gunfire has spiked the night, the Palestinians say, is the result of retaliation to an unwelcome and aggressive Israel Defence Force presence.

Arafat's efforts drew the German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer to today welcome Yasser Arafat's peace offer to the Israelis. Fischer held an urgent press conference where he praised Arafat for his initiative describing it as an important and brave offer to the Israelis.

The German Minister added that the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon assured him through the phone, that the Israeli Cabinet is considering the offer seriously.

Phone call meetings between Arafat, Housni Mubarak the Egyptian President, the Jordanian King Abdullah II, and United States secretary of state Colin Powell also took place. Arafat briefed them separately with the latest developments in the region, the Palestinian situation, and the International exerted efforts to bring the peace process back to the right track.

All were keen to press the seriousness of successful peace-talks between the Palestinians and Israel.

Arafat had further talks in Sharm El-Sheik with the Egyptian President Mohammad Husni Mubarak. The Two Leaders discussed several current issues of common concern, besides the developments in the Palestinian area, and the International efforts exerted to revive and advance the peace process.

The peace-deal remains on a knife-edge.

Palestinian press reports show, while Israeli troops have redeployed to the edge of the Gaza Strip and from all or part of seven West Bank cities, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territory is by no means finished.

The following figures are for the week September 13 to 19, compiled from Palestinian press and sources. KILLED 30 Palestinians in a series of Israeli invasions into areas of the West Bank and Gaza under Palestinian Authority control. Scoop does not consider this a complete list by any means, and it remains difficult to assertain a true picture except to say, tensions remain high.

Israel's National News agency reported this afternoon [New Zealand time] heavy Arab shooting in several places throughout Judea, Samaria, and Gaza this morning.

There was a particularly intense battle in Psagot, north of Jerusalem, and shooting against Israel Defence Force soldiers in the Jewish Gaza towns of Kfar Darom, Morag, and others.

Near the PA-controlled town of Rafiach last night, the Palestinian authorities reported three of their men killed in a battle with the IDF, three Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded.

And again today, a soldier was "moderately wounded" during an exchange of fire west of Ramallah. A large explosive was detonated this morning against an IDF force south of Jenin in northern Shomron, no one was reported as being hurt.

In Gaza, two shells were fired hitting a concrete wall surrounding the N'vei Dekalim industrial zone.

Despite the violence, Arafat and Israel's deputy prime minister Shimon Pres will likely meet within 24 hours, sources in Jerusalem report.

Peres is continuing to pressure Ariel Sharon to approve the meeting, while right-wing members of the cabinet remain firmly opposed to a meeting with Arafat - at this time.

Sharon is also being pressured by the US Bush administration, that demands a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians so as to aid its campaign against terrorism.

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