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Abed Rabbo: We Cannot Be ‘Sub-contractors’ for Israel - Salam Fayydh Economic Development No Substitute for Political Progress (Palestine Media Center- (PMC) 01/30/05)Source: http://www.palestine-pmc.com/details.asp?cat=1&id=786 ARAB PRESS ARAB PRESS Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Amid a flurry of high-level Palestinian-Israeli meetings and reports of a summit meeting between Mahmoud Abbas and Ariel Sharon during the second week of February, PLO executive member and co-author of the unofficial Geneva Initiative Yaser Abed Rabbo warned that Palestinians “cannot be sub-contractors for unilateral Israeli moves.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will hold their first summit during the second week of February, Palestinian Cabinet Secretary Hasan Abu Libdeh and Sharon’s office confirmed on Saturday.

The meeting will coincide with a planned visit to the region by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Abu Libdeh confirmed that Rice will visit the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories on February 6 or 7.

Palestinian minister Saeb Erakat and Sharon’s top aide Dov Weisglass met on Wednesday to discuss the emerging cease-fire deal and prepare for a meeting between Sharon and Abbas.

The summit meeting would be the highest-level contact between Israel and the Palestine National Authority (PNA) since June 2003 when Sharon and Abbas — then prime minister — launched the UN- adopted “roadmap” peace plan in the Jordanian city port of Aqaba.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said the United States “would be glad to see talks being held at the highest level” between Palestinian and Israeli officials.

Sharon had frozen political contact with Palestinian leaders on January 14 but decided to resume these contacts “very quickly,” Israeli public radio announced Wednesday.

Israel’s “Defense” Minister Shaul Mofaz met late Saturday night with Palestinian former security minister Mohammad Dahlan under tight security at a Tel Aviv hotel. Commander of the Palestinian National Security Forces Haj Ismail attended the meeting. The talks focused on security matters.

After the meeting, Mofaz said the Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) were ready to hand over control of several towns in the mostly occupied West Bank to the PNA within days.

Israeli officials said Mofaz and Dahlan would meet again in the coming days.

Last Tuesday, Palestinian and Israeli generals, including Maj. Gen. Mousa Arafat and Israeli Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, met at the Erez crossing point between Gaza and Israel to complete plans for Palestinian forces to deploy in the southern Gaza Strip, a move that took place on Friday.

Earlier in the week, Israeli President Moshe Katsav called Abbas to talk about the importance of working together for peace, Katsav’s office said Monday.

Abed Rabbo: Palestinians Cannot Be ‘Sub-contractors’ for Israel

However, Palestinian leaders warned their Israeli counterparts in Davos, Switzerland, that a new spirit of bilateral cooperation with Israel would endure only if Israel’s unilateral pullout from Gaza was linked to a final peace settlement.

On Saturday, member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and co-author of the Geneva Initiative Yaser Abed Rabbo, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyadh and Economy Minister Maher al-Masri met with Israel’s Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and Industry and Trade Minister Ehud Olmert in Davos Saturday, the Israeli Haaretz daily reported.

Abed Rabbo said in Davos the dream of a new partnership could be destroyed if Israel continued expanding the illegal colonies dotting the West Bank and building its expansionist Wall on occupied Palestinian land.

“With what is currently going on the ground, building the wall around the Palestinian populated areas and the expansion of the settlements, I’m afraid my dream will be lost,” he told the Davos Economic Forum, which on Sunday concludes four-day meetings.

A day earlier, Abed Rabbo told a special session of the Forum: “We cannot be sub-contractors for unilateral Israeli moves.”

He urged Israel to resume the final status negotiations.

“We need a comprehensive solution that will close all the gaps ... Side by side with the Gaza step, there should be a resumption of the final status negotiations,” he said.

“I think that in order to guarantee that any security measures will be sustained, a serious political process needs to begin,” Rabbo said. “We are interested in having a comprehensive solution where two states will exist side-by-side. A chance for having such a solution will contribute to a just and lasting peace for two nations.”

Abed Rabbo and his Israeli representative Geneva Initiative Avraham Burg were in Stockholm Saturday, Sweden’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs said.

Burg is a member of the Israeli Parliament (the Knesset) for the Labor Party and is a former speaker of the Knesset.

Both men “belong to the circle that drafted the Geneva Initiative – a private initiative intended to show how it would be possible for the parties to achieve a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” the ministry said.

Abed Rabbo and Burg met with Minister for Foreign Affairs Laia Freivalds.

Fayyadh: Economic Development No Substitute for Political Progress

Similarly, Palestinian Finance Minister Salam Fayyadh emphasized in Davos the need to make Israel’s unilateral plan for “disengagement” from the Gaza Strip a first step in a full political process based on the Quartet’s “roadmap,” leading to a peace agreement between the two nations.

Cautioning against an economic-only approach, Fayyadh said: “Important though it is, economic development is no substitute for a credible, durable progress on the political track.”

“We should make an effort to end the occupation not only in Gaza, but in the West Bank as well,” he said.

“The key should be creating hope and an ability to pull the disengagement into a final [peace] agreement. We need a complete mutual halt to violence, an end to occupation and to give special attention to economic development,” he elaborated.

Fayyadh was commenting on Israeli officials focusing on economic development.

Peres and Fayyadh agreed on the necessity to carry out a plan to upgrade the crossings between Israel and the PNA. Peres told Fayyadh Israel had reached an agreement with the World Bank under which the bank would participate in the project’s funding.

Both men also discussed instating free movement of goods between the Gaza Strip and Ashdod’s port by train or other means, as well as raising international investments in the territories.

Israel Sounds Conditionally Forthcoming

Israeli officials in Davos sounded conditionally forthcoming on Palestinian demands to coordinate Israel’s unilateral moves with Palestinians and to link the plan to a final status accord.

“It is always better to do things out of agreement. But most important is to carry them out, not to talk,” Ehud Olmert said.

“As soon as the disengagement [plan] is completed, even if it is just a beginning, it will have a dramatic effect on lives and other aspects would follow,” he added.

“The beauty of the Israeli plan is that instead of holding meetings we set a timetable and said we are changing the status quo in the Middle East,” Olmert said.

Leader of the Israeli Labor party and Vice Premier Peres supported linking Gaza plan with a “political process.”

A political process should take place along side the disengagement plan, in order to avoid creating a gap between the political and economic progress, he said.

“We need to act swiftly so that the economic impact of the political moves would be fast and that a gap between them wouldn´t be a trap for Palestinians,” Peres said.

“There is also need for economic democracy in the Palestinian Authority. We need to give Palestinians the feeling that peace is not just a promise, but an immediate change in their lives. We need to work together to achieve this,” he added. (© PMC 2005 01/30/05)

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