Palestinian Israeli Roadmap Meeting Cancelled
‘Roadmap’ Deadlocked as Palestinian, Israeli Premiers Cancel Meeting
Sharon to Knesset: Israel Has Given Palestinians Nothing So Far
Palestinian and Israeli sources announced Tuesday that a meeting between premiers Mahmud Abbas and Ariel Sharon scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled, amid a deadlock resulting from Israel’s stalling in the implementation of its “roadmap” commitments.
Sharon on Monday told a defense and foreign affairs committee of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) that Israel has given the Palestinians nothing so far.
The Palestinian leadership and government on Monday said that Israel was not “serious” in implementing its commitments stipulated in the US-sponsored “roadmap” peace plan, which was drafted and adopted by the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and Russia.
The Palestine National Authority (PNA) Prime Minister Abbas cancelled a meeting with Sharon, which was scheduled for Wednesday.
A senior Palestinian official told AFP earlier Monday that the meeting was likely to take place on Wednesday evening before Abbas departs for a trip the next day to Saudi Arabia.
It was to have been the third bilateral meeting between the two prime ministers who last met in Jerusalem on July 20 before embarking on separate visits to Washington for talks with US President George W. Bush.
The Palestinian source said the issue of Palestinian detainees, further Israeli occupation troop withdrawals from the West Bank and the siege imposed on President Yasser Arafat in his battered Ramallah headquarters by the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were likely to figure on the agenda.
Sharon’s bureau confirmed
late Monday night that the meeting scheduled
Wednesday with Abbas had been cancelled in light of Sunday night’s shooting attack near the “Har Gilo” settlement, in which four illegal Israeli settlers were wounded.
Abbas and the PNA Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath condemned the attack and Palestinian security agencied immediately started a search for the perpetrators.
Abbas’ office also announced that the meeting with Sharon had been cancelled, due to what it regarded as limited good-will gestures from Israel towards the Palestinians, especially concerning the release of Palestinian detainees.
Minister Silvan Shalom also postponed his planned Tuesday
Palestinian Authority ministers, Ha’aretz reported.
Barely two months after the Aqaba Summit in Jordan revived hopes for peace in the Middle East, Israelis and Palestinians seem bogged down in stalemate due to Israeli non-compliance with the “roadmap” stipulations.
The Palestinian leadership warned Sunday that the policies of the Israeli government of Ariel Sharon threaten the international “roadmap” plan with collapse, and would lead to grave consequences, a fact which requires an urgent and active intervention by the Quartet of the US, UN, EU and Russia to save this “extraordinary opportunity” for peace.
“Continuation of the status quo without effective international monitoring and a timetable to implement the roadmap, including all the obligations stipulated therein, threatens the plan with collapse, to face the fate of similar previous documents and agreements,” the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) said following a meeting chaired by President Arafat and attended by PM Abbas at the Palestinian leader’s battered headquarters in Ramallah.
The practices on the ground by the Israeli government of PM Sharon aims at obstructing the chances for implementing the US-sponsored “roadmap,” the PLO said.
This status quo “will lead to serious consequences and create an atmosphere of despair and frustration, which requires an urgent and active intervention by the Quartet (of the US, UN, EU and Russia), the world community and our Arab brethrens to save the extraordinary opportunity (for peace) represented by the roadmap,” the Palestinian leadership added.
Arafat: Israeli Release of Detainees ‘a Fraud’
The Israeli announcement that the IOF plan to release only 342 Palestinian detainees out of at least 8,000 angered the Palestinians and was described by President Arafat as a “fraud.”
"The release of 400 prisoners is a fraud," Arafat told reporters Monday.
“They have detained more than 800 recently, including 239 in Hebron only,” Arafat announced.
"Is this the implementation of the roadmap? Are they deceiving nations?” he angrily asked.
Similarly the PNA Cabinet Minister of Security Affairs Mohammad Dahlan also blasted the Israeli decision.
"This is a complete deception, a trick,” said Dahlan. "What the Israelis are doing will complicate the peace process and frustrate the peace supporters among the Palestinians.”
Palestinian officials noted that 31 detainees were to have completed their sentences this month anyway, and that Israeli officials said earlier 540 would be freed, but they decreased the number to 342.
On Monday, the Israeli government published a list of 342 “security prisoners” it plans to free. Also, Israel plans to release 97 Palestinians jailed for criminal offenses.
“Of the 342 Palestinians to be released this week, 89 belong to Fatah, 64 to Hamas, 24 to Islamic Jihad and five to the Popular and Democratic Fronts. Of the convicts, 31 were due to be released this month in any case, including some who finished their jail terms today (Monday). Another 128 would have completed their prison sentences and been released by the end of the year, and 51 others were due to be released next year. The remaining five would have been released by November 2005,” Ha’aretz reported.
No women were included in the list, which was published at the Prison Service website (http://www.ips.gov.il.) , Ha’aretz noted.
IOF detain at least 73 women activists and more than 360 Palestinian children, according to Palestinian sources.
Of the released prisoners, 86 were convicted of belonging to “terrorist” organizations (meaning anti-Israeli occupation groups) or providing them with services, 43 were convicted of stone throwing or other public disturbances, 46 for illegal weapons possession and six for preparing explosives, the Israeli daily added.
Israel Halts Transfer of West Bank Towns
Separately Monday, Israeli “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz fueled Palestinian anger further by announcing that Israel would not hand over control of any more towns until the Palestinians apprehend the gunmen who ambushed an Israeli car near Jerusalem on Sunday, badly wounding a Jewish family of illegal settlers.
PM Abbas condemned Mofaz’s statement.
“The truce agreement is still valid, despite the Jerusalem attack, (a fact) which requires continuing the implementation of the roadmap that obliges (the IOF) to withdraw from the PNA sovereignty areas to pre-28 September 20000,” the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al Jadida on Tuesday quoted Abbas as telling the political committee of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) on Monday.
The attack took place near Bethlehem, the first town that reverted to PNA control last month under terms of the US-backed “roadmap” plan.
“Until we see how they operate in Bethlehem, we at this time will not hand over to them additional cities,” Mofaz said. “I expect to see results in terms of their activities against (the) attackers.”
Grumbling in US Administration about Israel's Failures
Meanwhile, there is grumbling in the US
Administration about Israel’s failures in
meeting its commitments under the “roadmap,” specifically the slow pace of removal of the outposts established after March 2001. Sharon promised Washington last week that he would remove another 12 “unauthorized” outposts.
Bush administration officials are considering a reduction in loan guarantees to Israel as a penalty for constructing the Apartheid Separation Wall, termed a “security fence” by Israeli officials, to separate Israelis from Palestinian areas, the AP reported.
The US Congress authorized more than a decade ago cuts in US aid to Israel by the amount the Jewish state spent on illegally settling Jews on the occupied West Bank and in the Gaza Strip.
The Wall when completed will confiscate at least 50% of the total area of the West Bank.
The dollar-for-dollar formula now might be applied to the $9 billion in loan guarantees over three years and $1 billion in military aid approved last spring to help compensate Israel for the economic impact of the war on Iraq.
The main question under consideration is whether building the 370-mile-long Wall is related to settlements, said a US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to AP. The Israelis have said the construction will cost about $2 million a mile.
The official stressed there had been no decision yet.
Israel on Monday complained to US “roadmap” monitor John Wolf that the Palestinians are not taking the actions required of them by the plan. Wolf met separately with Dov Weisglass, the prime minister’s bureau chief, and Amos Gilad, now head of the “Defense” Ministry's political security branch, and heard complaints from both about the PNA’s failure to meet its commitments.