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Abbas Pledges Clear-cut Commitment to Peace

PM Abbas Pledges Clear-cut Palestinian Commitment to Peace

Sharon Reluctantly, Vaguely Signs Israel on to US-Sponsored ‘Roadmap’

Palestine Media Centre – (PMC)

The Palestinian and Israeli governments on Wednesday publicly signed on to a US-sponsored “roadmap” to peace in the Middle East. But while PM Abbas pledged a clear-cut Palestinian commitment to the obligations of the internationally-adopted plan, the pledge of his Israeli counterpart PM Sharon was reluctant and fell short of meeting those obligations.

“To establish the Palestinian state, we emphasize our determination to implement our pledges which we have made for our people and the international community, and that is the rule of law, single political authority, weapons only in the hands of those who are in charge of upholding the law and order, and political diversity within the framework of democracy,” the Palestine National Authority’s (PNA) Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas confirmed in a statement read at the conclusion of his Aqaba summit meeting with US President George W. Bush and his Israeli counterpart Ariel Sharon.

Abbas however stressed that reciprocity is essential in the implementation of the “roadmap.”

“Just as Israel must meet its responsibilities, we the Palestinians will fulfil our obligations for this endeavour to succeed. We are ready to do our part, and will immediately begin,”he said.

PM Abbas (Abu Mazen) was similarly clear-cut in voicing the Palestinian pledge to end violence.

“We will exert our full efforts using all our resources to end the militarization of the Intifada (the Palestinian uprising against the 36-year-old Israeli occupation), and we will succeed,” he said.

“The armed Intifada must end, and we must resort to peaceful means in our quest to end the occupation,” he added.

“Let me be very clear,” Abbas said further, “There will be no military solution for this conflict, so we repeat our renunciation and the renunciation of terrorism against the Israelis wherever they might be. Such methods are inconsistent with our religious and moral traditions and are a dangerous obstacle to the achievement of an independent sovereign state we seek.”

Moreover, the Palestinian premier bravely surpassed the 100-year-old suffering of the Palestinian people at the hands of the Zionists and Israelis to voice sensitivity to the “suffering of the Jews throughout history.”

“We do not ignore the suffering of the Jews throughout history. It is time to bring all this suffering to an end,” he said.

He clearly set out the Palestinian goal and method of achieving them.

“Our goal is two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. The process is the one of direct negotiations to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to resolve all the permanent status issues and end the occupation that began in 1967 under which Palestinians have suffered so much.”

Sharon’s Message Reluctant, Vague

In comparison to Abbas’, Israeli PM Sharon’s pledge and message to the Palestinian people was reluctant and vague.

He did not pledge Israel’s support to the “roadmap” but to the “steps of the roadmap ‘as adopted by the Israeli government’” and not as adopted last December by the international “Quartet” of peace mediators representing the US, UN, EU and Russia.

“The government and people of Israel welcome the opportunity to renew direct negotiations according to the steps of the road map as adopted by the Israeli government to achieve this vision,” he said in a statement read at the end of Aqaba summit talks.

The Palestinian leadership cautiously welcomed Israel’s conditional early May approval of the US-backed “roadmap” for peace in the Middle East-- which for the first time accepts the creation of a Palestinian state-- as a “positive step in the right direction,” though “vague” and “insufficient.”

The Israeli government’s statement approved a Sharon “announcement” and not the “roadmap” and firmly tied the cabinet vote to the White House statement two days earlier.

“The Government of Israel affirms the Prime Minister’s announcement” on 23 May 2003 “that Israel has agreed to accept the steps set out in the roadmap,” and “resolves that all of Israel’s comments, as addressed in the (US) Administration’s statement, will be implemented in full during the implementation phase of the ‘roadmap’,” the Israeli government’s statement said early May.

Moreover, the Israeli government approval consisted of still unreleased 14 “red lines,” attached to its decision and considered an integral part thereof.

Similarly, Sharon’s statement in Aqaba fell too short of dealing with the issue of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Sharon pledged Wednesday only to immediately dismantle illegal “outposts” in Palestinian areas. These “outposts” are considered “illegal” by Israelis because their erection was not approved by the Israeli government. But he ignored completely tens of settlements authorised by Israeli governments, housing around 400,000 settlers in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and occupied east Jerusalem, in contravention with international law.

“In regard to the unauthorized outposts, I want to reiterate that Israel is a society governed by the rule of law. Thus, we will immediately begin to remove unauthorized outposts,” Sharon only said.

On Wednesday, PNA cabinet minister Ghassan Khattab said, “If Israel will continue with expanding settlements, if this road map is not good enough to stop the Israeli expansion of settlements, so it going to be completely useless and failure from a Palestinian point of view.”

Another major shortcoming in Sharon’s pledge was the absence in his statement of any reference to the occupation of Palestinian territory, to the withdrawal of Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) from reoccupied Palestinian territory or to the strict seige imposed on Palestinian people, all which render his “humanitarian” promises meaningless.

“We will seek to restore normal Palestinian life, improve the humanitarian situation, rebuild trust and promote progress toward the president's vision. We will act in a manner that respects the dignity as well as the human rights of all people,” he said.

Even Sharon’s explicit public acceptance of a Palestinian state fell short of any reference to an Israeli occupation’s withdrawal to the lines of 4 June 1967.

“Israel, like others, has lent its strong support for President Bush's vision expressed on June 24, 2002, of two states, Israel and the Palestinian state, living side by side in peace and security,” he said.

In harmony with his recent interpretation of the term “occupation,” Sharon referred to the Palestinian people under occupation and not to the Israeli-occupied land.

“It is in Israel’s interest not to govern the Palestinians, but for the Palestinians to govern themselves in their own state. A democratic Palestinian state fully at peace with Israel will promote the long-term security and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state.”

Sharon’s reference to the “Jewish state” in his statement was reported to be an issue of difference between Palestinian - Arab and Israeli delegations to both the US – Arab summit in Sharm El-Sheikh as well as in the Aqaba summit.

US President Bush’s statement in Aqaba endorsed the Israeli term.

“Today, America is strongly committed and I am strongly committed to Israel's security as a vibrant Jewish state,” Bush said.

But this Israeli demand to recognize Israel as a Jewish state is yet another source of deep concern for Palestinian and Arab officials because it implies the ruling out of the Palestinian right of return, the right for millions of Palestinian refugees in forced exile since 1948, to come back to their homeland in Israel.

What is more unsettling for the Palestinian people in Sharon’s Aqaba statement is his consistent determination to deal with the political conflict as a purely security issue.

“As the prime minister of Israel, the land which is the cradle of the Jewish people, my paramount responsibility is the security of the people of Israel and of the state of Israel,” he announced, adding: “Permanent security requires peace. And permanent peace can only be obtained through security.”

Bush: The Holy Land Must Be Divided

Despite the shortcomings of Sharon’s pledge, US President Bush sounded determined to carry on with his vision of a two-state solution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"The Holy Land must be shared between the State of Palestine and State of Israel living in peace with each other and with every nation of the Middle East," Bush said at the conclusion of the Aqaba summit Wednesday.

“We believe that with hard work and good faith and courage it is possible to bring peace to the Middle East. And today we mark important progress toward that goal.

“Great and hopeful change is coming to the Middle East,” Bush said in his statement.

He stressed the solving of the issue of settlement as “a must.”

“As I said yesterday, the issue of settlements must be addressed for peace to be achieved.”

He also highlighted the importance of both parties adhering to their commitments.

“All sides have made important commitments, and the United States will strive to see these commitments fulfilled… And we expect both parties to keep their promises.”

To guarantee commitment Bush said: “My government will provide training and support for a new, restructured Palestinian security service. And we'll place a mission on the ground, led by Ambassador John Wolf. This mission will be charged with helping the parties to move toward peace, monitoring their progress and stating clearly who is fulfilling their responsibilities.”


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