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US Undercuts Arafat’s Call for Reinstating Truce

US Undercuts Arafat’s Call for Reinstating Truce

Bush officials echo Israeli Incitement, Fatah Warns of ‘Consequeces’

President Yasser Arafat criticized US intervention in Palestinian internal affairs and called on all Palestinians to reinstate the Hudna (ceasefire) declared on June 29, a call hailed by the PNA government of PM Mahmud Abbas, but dismissed by the US and Israel, amid a new American and Israeli campaign of incitement against Arafat, which the Palestinian mainstream ruling party blasted on Wednesday.

President Arafat on Wednesday called on all Palestinian factions, political parties and groups to reconfirm their commitment to national unity and the Hudna (truce) to allow for international peace efforts implement the “roadmap” peace plan, which Israel still refuses to commit to, the Palestinian official news agency WAFA reported Wednesday.

“President Yasser Arafat calls on all groups, factions and parties to reaffirm national unity and solidarity, and their commitment to Hudna, in order to protect our people and allow for international peace efforts to implement the roadmap (peace plan drafted and adopted by the US, the UN, the EU and Russia), which the Israeli government refuses to commit to,” Arafat said in a statement.

“The Palestine National Authority (PNA) has the support and the mandate to achieve the Hudna and to resume efforts to secure the Israeli withdrawal from all Palestinian cities and areas to their positions on 28 September 2000,” the Palestinian president added.

The PNA Cabinet hailed Arafat’s call for reinstating the Hudna as part of implementing its commitments stipulated in the “roadmap.”

“The Council of Ministers supports President Yasser Arafat’s call on all Palestinian groups and factions to declare their commitment to Hudna and ceasefire, in compliance with the PNA’s commitment to the roadmap,” the Cabinet said in a statement reported by WAFA, following an extraordinary meeting in Gaza on Wednesday, chaired by Prime Minister Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

US Administration: Arafat not Part of Peace Process

However the US Administration on Wednesday downplayed Arafat call and dismissed him as not part of the peace process.

"Arafat has once again shown himself to be part of the problem," White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan told reporters in Crawford, Texas where US President George W. Bush is now on vacation at his ranch. "He is not part of the solution,” White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said.

Ms. Buchan said a key step to implementing the international “roadmap” peace plan is for Palestinian security forces to be consolidated under Palestinian PM Abbas.

At the State Department, deputy spokesman Philip Reeker offered a similar appraisal, refusing to even mention Arafat’s appeal in a series of terse sentences.

"Terrorism has to stop now,” he told reporters. "There has to be an end to violence. It has to be unconditional. They've got to end the violence.”

Arafat responded by strongly criticizing the US administration’s interference in the Palestinian affairs, and downplaying his role in implementing the “roadmap” plan, the Gaza-based IPC reported on Wednesday.

"I will not allow anyone to interfere in our internal affairs,” and questioning why the United States doesn't interfere in the internal affairs of Israel or any other country, an IPC correspondent quoted him as saying.

Nonetheless President Arafat reaffirmed his commitment to the “roadmap” peace plan as a whole, and to his role as the legitimate and elected leader of the Palestinian people.

"I am prepared to implement the law on condition Israel stops its attacks,”
President Arafat told Reuters on Tuesday.

Armitage Undercuts Powell’s Appeal to Arafat

It was noteworthy that US Secretary of State Colin Powell, whose government has refused to negotiate with Arafat, called on the veteran leader on August 21 to work with PM Abbas to end the upsurge in violence.

At a joint news conference with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Powell urged Arafat "to make available elements that are under his control, so that they can allow progress to be made on the road map, end terror, end this violence that just results in a further repetition of the cycle that we've seen so often.”

But the US Administration seemed on Wednesday to backtrack on Powell’s appeal, following Israeli criticism.

"Clearly, by blocking the consolidation of the Palestinian security forces under Prime Minister Abbas, Yasser Arafat undercuts the fight against terrorism,” White House spokeswoman Buchan said.

Similarly US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said on Wednesday Arafat must turn over full control of the Palestinian security apparatus to prime minister Abbas and then “get out of the way” if peace with Israel is to be achieved.

In an interview with US regional news syndicates, Armitage also said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has been “very restrained” in his actions.

"I think the prime minister of Israel has been very restrained and very true to his words,” he said.

"He wants the Palestinians to do what they're required to do, and that is to exert maximum effort to stop terror,” adding, “Mr. Arafat is again showing that he’s against the interests of the Palestinian people and against progress towards a two-state future.”

“Arafat ought to make the security forces available and get out of the way,” Armitage added.

However in the interview, a transcript of which was released by the State Department, Armitage demurred when asked about Israel’s “targeted killing” policy, which the United Nations chief Kofi Annan last week condemned as an “extra-judicial” assassination policy.

"We have all talked about targeted assassinations, made very clear what our view is on targeted assassinations,” Armitage said.

"We've been equally clear, however, that killing of innocents has to stop,” he said. "So there's plenty of finger pointing on both sides here.”

The US officials sounded as echoing Israeli incitement campaign against President Arafat.

Raanan Gissin, an adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said Arafat’s statement was meaningless.

"Arafat has never stopped supporting the strategy of terror,” Gissin said. "He has over 60 percent of the Palestinian Authority forces under his control and has done nothing with them to pursue a peaceful solution. He has no interest in a peaceful solution.”

Fatah Warns against anti-Arafat Incitement

The Central Committee of the Fatah, the Palestinian ruling party and mainstream political movement, warned Wednesday against “the grave consequences” of harming Arafat, following Israeli threats reported by Israeli media to “liquidate” or to deport him.

Any act of this type “would move the region upside down,” and push it to “complete explosion,” Fatah said in a statement released by AFP.

“The Hebrew state cannot bear the consequences and results of his (Arafat’s) deportation or any attempt on his life,” Fatah warned.

Indyk Renews Call for International ‘Trusteeship’

Meanwhile, former American ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk used a New York Times opinion article to reintroduce his idea for an international “trusteeship” to govern the West Bank and Gaza, including an "American-led force to fight terrorists alongside the Palestinian security services.”

Even the Zionist Organization of America, a staunch supporter of Israeli sovereignty over the territories, called on President Bush "to send FBI agents to the Middle East to arrest Palestinian Arab killers of Americans,” referring to the five American citizens who were among the 21 victims of the Jerusalem bus bombing last week, Indyk said.

From the beginning, the “roadmap” plan suffered from a lack of enthusiasm from the United States and Israel. Together, they delayed the release of the plan for four months, then struck a deal to implement it selectively, according to political analysts John Ward Anderson and Molly Moore.

“When the cabinet of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon finally endorsed the plan, it added a list of 14 reservations that struck at its heart, rejecting timelines and international monitoring and making the entire plan conditional on security improvements,” Anderson and Moore wrote in the Washington Post.

Anderson and Moore echoed repeated Palestinian criticism.

"There's nothing wrong with the substance of the roadmap,” said Saeb Erekat, formerly the senior Palestinian negotiator with Israel, "but we need to implement the roadmap of the quartet, not the road map of Sharon and his 14 reservations.”

According to Erekat: "We need (US President George W.) Bush to say, 'We're watching you. Israel is supposed to stop settlement activity, period. Do it. You are supposed to go back to your positions of September 2000. Do it.”

US Sidelined Quartet

But the United States and the rest of the Quartet failed to adequately and publicly monitor implementation of the “roadmap,” Anderson and Moore said.

The United States sent a monitoring team to the region headed by special envoy John Wolf, but the group never made any public statements. The US Embassy in Tel Aviv has refused repeated requests from journalists for interviews with Wolf or his associates.

Palestinian officials also complained that the Quartet failed to stay involved.

"The Quartet did a disappearing act,” Erekat said. "The Americans pushed them aside, and they didn't want to confront the Americans.”

Bush administration officials told the “Forward” that the White House plans to wait for the violence to subside before redoubling efforts to kick-start negotiations and push ahead with implementation of the American-backed road map to Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Administration officials described the current plan to revitalize the peace process as "more intense, more comprehensive,” adding that it would not include any steps, such as the introduction of American troops, which would constitute a change in existing policy. Critics are warning that without more aggressive action, the “roadmap” is likely to fail, Forward online reported.

"The road map is unimplementable in its current form,” Aaron Miller, who served until January in the Bush administration as a senior State Department adviser for Arab-Israeli negotiations, told Forward.

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