Egypt moves to bolster the increasingly fragile cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians (Al-Ahram Weekly Online) Khaled Amayreh from Jerusalem 10 - 16 July 2003 (Issue No. 646)
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In an attempt to avert the collapse of the fragile truce between
Israel and the Palestinians Egypt has resumed its mediation efforts
in Gaza. The three-week truce is increasingly threatened by sporadic
acts of violence.
On Wednesday Colonel Mustafa El-Beheiri, deputy-chief of Egyptian
Intelligence, arrived in Gaza to urge the leaders of Hamas and
Islamic Jihad to uphold the truce. El-Beheiri, who played a central
role in convincing the resistance groups to accept the truce three
weeks ago, will meet with Hamas´s spiritual leader Sheikh Ahmed
Yassin and the leaders of Islamic Jihad.
According to sources in Gaza El-Beheiri will inform Palestinian
leaders that attacks such as Sunday night´s bombing near Netanya,
north of Tel Aviv, in which two persons were killed, including the
bomber, give Israel a pretext to break the cease-fire and resume open-
war against the Palestinians. In return Palestinian leaders will tell
El-Beheiri that Israeli attacks against Palestinians, and the arrest
of Palestinian activists, have continued unabated despite Palestinian
"We will tell him that this is a two-way street," said Hamas
spokesman Mahmoud Al- Zahar.
Meanwhile Islamic Jihad, whose military wing, Saraya Al-Quds claimed
responsibility for the bombing, has reaffirmed its commitment to the
"This was an exception... a warning to Israel that the Palestinians
will not stand idle while Israel continues to target and kill our
people," said Mohamed Al-Hindi, a prominent leader of Islamic Jihad
Al-Hindi, together with Palestinian leaders from Hamas and Fatah,
accuse Israel of violating the truce on a daily basis by carrying out
provocative incursions into Palestinian towns and assassinating
Palestinian activists. The Israeli army has continued to kill an
average of one Palestinian a day since the truce came into effect.
On Wednesday Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian man and
seriously injured his wife at a village south of Jenin in the
northern West Bank. On Tuesday Israeli troops rampaged through
Tulkarm, shooting and seriously injuring a teenager who allegedly
didn´t heed orders to stop. The Israeli army´s continued raids and
its targeting of Palestinian population centres and institutions
throughout the West Bank is causing many ordinary Palestinians to
lose faith in the current political process. It is a situation that
is being compounded by mounting Palestinian indignation over Israel´s
provocative refusal to release Palestinian political prisoners.
This latter issue is fast evolving into a crisis, forcing Palestinian
Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas to tender his resignation from Fatah´s
Central Committee (FCC) and to cancel a scheduled meeting with
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
Abbas reportedly came under attack from Fatah leaders during the FCC
meeting on Monday night. The Palestinian premier was accused of
lacking a coherent negotiation strategy and of compromising the
Fatah leaders, dismissing Abbas´s resignation as a storm in a teacup,
demanded that he present the legislative council with a clear and
detailed strategy for negotiations with Israel based on parity rather
than the accommodation of Israeli dictates.
"The negotiations with Israel are being conducted haphazardly. Israel
is treating us as a defeated party, but we are not defeated, we are
ready to resume the armed struggle at any moment if our goals of
freedom and self- determination are not met," said Fatah leader and
Legislative Council member, Hatem Abdul-Qader.
Abdul-Qader accused Abbas of reneging on his promise to the
legislative council: "He told us ´give us a truce, I will give you
achievements.´ We gave him a truce and he has given us virtually
In order to secure Fatah´s backing, crucial for Abbas on both the
political and security levels, the Palestinian prime minister needs
to progress on three fronts.
First he will have to convince Israel to release thousands of
Palestinian prisoners and not just the few hundred Israel wants.
Second, he will have to secure a qualitative improvement in the daily
life of ordinary Palestinians. Many Palestinians hoped the recent
Israeli "withdrawal" from Bethlehem and northern Gaza would pave the
way for the lifting of crippling Israeli travel restrictions,
especially in West Bank. Such hopes quickly evaporated as Israel
imposed a tight blockade on the vacated areas.
He must also convince Palestinians that Israel is sincere about
reaching a peaceful settlement with the Palestinians, an uphill task
at a time when the continued building of the "separation wall" and
unmitigated expansion of Jewish settlements have convinced many
Palestinians that Israel is negotiating in bad faith. Quite how Abbas
can deliver the goods the Palestinians demand is unclear. Far clearer
is the gaping chasm between his desire to meet the legitimate
concerns of his people, on the one hand, and his ability to extract
concessions from Israel´s parsimonious hands on the other.
(© Copyright Al-Ahram Weekly. 10 - 16 July 2003 (Issue No. 646)
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