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PA mounts anti-fence campaign (JERUSALEM POST) By BY KHALED ABU TOAMEH AND HERB KEINON 10/03/03) Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1065071252638
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The Palestinian Authority has decided to embark on a diplomatic offensive aimed at forcing Israel to halt construction of the security fence in the West Bank.
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The decision follows the cabinet´s approval on Wednesday of plans to extend the fence around Ariel.
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PA Chairman Yasser Arafat, speaking to reporters outside his office in Ramallah, called on the international community to take immediate action to stop construction of the fence.
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"I appeal to the international public opinion, the Quartet, the Arab League, and the Non-Aligned countries to stop this destruction of the peace process," he said.
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"Until when will they continue to watch these Nazi and racist crimes against our people? The fence devours more than 60 percent of our land. What does all this mean? It means that the Israeli government is sabotaging the peace process."
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Earlier, Arafat met with a senior Russian diplomat who handed him a letter from President Vladimir Putin.
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PA officials said Arafat demanded that Russia play a bigger role in the Middle East and employ pressure on Israel to halt the building of the fence.
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The PA on Thursday sent urgent letters to members of the Quartet the United Nations, Russia, the European Union, and the United States asking them to intervene with Israel to stop it from pursuing the construction of the fence. Palestinian legislator and chief negotiator Saeb Erekat said he sent letters on behalf of the PA to the Quartet calling for urgent action after the Israeli government on Wednesday approved a major new phase of the fence in northern Samaria. Erekat said continuing construction of the fence "means demolishing the peace process." He said Israel´s decision to build the fence east of Ariel "not only destroyed the road map for peace in the Middle East, but also any future attempt to achieve peace between the two people." The letters to the Quartet urged them to put pressure on Israel to halt the project, he added. "This is not a separation fence," Erekat said. "This is a fence between the Palestinians and the Palestinians. The fence will directly affect the lives of more than 300,000 Palestinians, including those living in Jerusalem. Also, we will lose 80% of the water wells in the West Bank. "This racist fence is designed to destroy the vision of [US] President [George W.] Bush for two states. This is a huge failure for Bush." Nabil Abu Rudeineh, a spokesman for Arafat, urged the US to force Israel to remove the fence immediately.
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"This is a racist fence and the US must take more decisive measures to completely remove it," he said. "The fence is a real obstacle to efforts aimed at resuming peace talks with Israel." Outgoing cabinet minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said the fence has nothing to do with Israel´s security.
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"Israel just wants to steal as much land as possible in order to prevent the establishment of an independent and contiguous Palestinian state," he said.
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Meanwhile, Syria in coordination with the Palestinian delegation to the UN is putting out feelers about linking a resolution condemning the fence to another possible resolution that would constitute a UN Security Council endorsement of the road map.
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The US is opposed to the fence in any event, and the Palestinian/Syrian strategy is to avoid a US veto by making a condemnation of the fence palatable to the US by linking it with something positive: endorsement of the road map.
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In recent weeks Russia has been leading efforts to get a Security Council endorsement of the road map. Israel opposes this on the grounds that the road map has already been endorsed by the sides, and what is needed now is not more declarations, but rather action on the ground.
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According to diplomatic sources in Jerusalem, bringing the fence issue to the Security Council may not have the support of pro-US Arab countries such as Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco. According to this logic, these countries don´t want to see the US placed in a position where it will veto another resolution, as it did recently with the resolution concerning the government´s decision to remove Arafat, because this whips up anti-American sentiment in their own countries something against the ruling governments´ interests.
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In addition to trying to get the Security Council to deal with the fence issue, the Palestinians have also turned to the members of the Quartet. According to Foreign Ministry officials, the EU is slated to deal with the issue next week.
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The EU´s foreign ministers, meeting earlier this week in Brussels, already came out against the fence even before the cabinet decision. A declaration of conclusions on the Middle East put out after the meeting called on Israel "to freeze the construction of the separation fence, which results in confiscation of Palestinian land, restricts movement of people and goods, and hinders a just political solution to the conflict." Britain and France both came out Thursday with statements against the government´s decision.
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Even with these reactions, there was a sense in the Foreign Ministry that, all in all, "the sky did not fall" as a result of the decision.
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But, one senior official said, this may change if and when Israel actually connects the four horseshoes it is building around Ariel, Kedumim, Emmanuel, and Karnei Shomron to the fence running near the Green Line.
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The most significant reaction to the fence decision, from Jerusalem´s perspective, was the non-reaction that came out of Washington. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher did not condemn the decision, and said the US is discussing it with the Israeli government. "We´ll look carefully at this decision," he said. "It remains our long-standing policy to oppose activities by either party in the West Bank and Gaza that prejudge final-status negotiations."
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One diplomatic official in Jerusalem said this should not be interpreted as acquiescence to the fence decision, but rather Washington´s desire to wait and see whether the area is enclosed before entering into a frontal confrontation with Israel over the matter.
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US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday the US is still weighing whether to include the cost of security fence construction in deductions the US plans to make from loan guarantees to Israel, and expressed US concerns about Israel´s construction of the barrier and ongoing settlement expansion.
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"The Israeli cabinet made decisions recently," Powell told reporters at the Foreign Press Center in Washington. "The president continues to believe that the fence presents a problem. And to the extent that the fence intrudes on Palestinian land, that problem is exacerbated."
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The State Department informed Congress this week that it plans, at some point in the future, to deduct an amount roughly equivalent to what Israel spends on settlement construction from the $9 billion in loan guarantees it has pledged over three years.
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Such deductions are required by US law and are consistent with the US- issued loan guarantees issued to Israel in the 1990s. But the amount to be deducted has not yet been calculated.
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"No decisions have been made on the amounts of the deductions, nor on some of the questions of exactly how to calculate them," Boucher said Wednesday. Janine Zacharia contributed to this report. (© 1995-2003, The Jerusalem Post 10/03/03)
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