Sharon predicts ´historic breakthrough´ (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Joshua Mitnick TEL AVIV, Israel 01/28/05)
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TEL AVIV — Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday praised Palestinian
steps to contain attacks on Israel by militants and said he foresees
a "historic breakthrough" in ending the four-year-old Palestinian
uprising and restarting peace talks.
The remarks, the most upbeat by Mr. Sharon in recent memory, also
confirmed that his government seeks to cooperate with the
Palestinians on Israel´s planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip,
rather than pulling out unilaterally.
"We are monitoring recent developments in the Palestinian Authority
with great interest, and it seems that there is a positive approach
there regarding the war on terrorism and advancing the diplomatic
process,´´ Mr. Sharon told a convention of building contractors in
"I believe that the conditions have been created which will enable us
and the Palestinians to reach a historic breakthrough in relations
between us, a breakthrough which would lead us towards quiet and
security and — in the future — even the hoped-for peace."
The statement came as aides to Mr. Sharon met Palestinian officials
to prepare for a meeting with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud
Abbas — the first Israeli-Palestinian summit in 18 months.
Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia yesterday issued a decree
forbidding Palestinian civilians from carrying weapons in public, a
nod toward Israel´s demand for the disarmament of militias.
Palestinian police officers also were expected to fan out in the
southern Gaza Strip to protect Jewish settlements from attack,
completing a deployment that began in northern Gaza a week ago.
Calm during the past week has been facilitated by an informal cease-
fire among Palestinian militants, who are giving Mr. Abbas a month to
get assurances from Israel that it will halt assassinations of
Palestinian officials and intrusions into the West Bank and Gaza.
A leading member of Mr. Sharon´s Likud Party cautioned against too
"I wouldn´t be so enthusiastic. The real test of [Mr. Abbas] is not
enforcing a temporary cessation of violence, but disarming those
terrorist militias," said Yuval Steinitz, chairman of the
parliament´s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
"It is still extremely too early to say that we are having a historic
opportunity for peace. Even with a serious cease-fire, there are gaps
to be bridged. This is just the beginning of a very long process."
Analysts said the optimism serves Mr. Sharon´s goal of building
support for his plan to evacuate settlements in the Gaza Strip and
northern West Bank.
By burnishing the Palestinians´ credentials as partners in the war on
terrorism, Mr. Sharon is putting critics of the withdrawal in the
position of being peace-process opponents, said Shmuel Bar, a Middle
East specialist at the Interdisciplinary Center at Herzliya.
(Copyright 2005 News World Communications, Inc. 01/28/05)
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