Mofaz: IDF will only quit W. Bank towns when Gaza is quiet (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular 02/01/05)
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Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz last night told Mohammed Dahlan that
there would be no transfer of West Bank cities to the Palestinian
Authority without a total cessation of mortar fire into the
settlements of Gush Katif.
Mofaz´s meeting with Dahlan, considered one of Palestinian President
Mahmoud Abbas´ closest advisers, was to focus on the transfer of five
West Bank cities - Ramallah, Bethlehem, Jericho, Tul Karm and
Qalqilyah - to the Palestinians as early as this week. But
yesterday´s mortar fire in Gaza made Mofaz demand that the PA take
more aggressive action against the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
Jericho is likely to be the first city to be transferred.
At the Herzliya meeting, Mofaz made several demands of Dahlan,
* A total halt to all terror in Gaza, as a condition for proceeding
on other fronts
* A commitment by all the terror groups to the PA that they have
ceased terror activity, including from small groups that so far
remain noncommittal or opposed to the cease-fire
* A thorough PA investigation into the mortar fire and the suicide
bombing two weeks ago at Karni junction
* More deployment of Palestinian troops in southern Gaza and a
Palestinian campaign against the smuggling tunnels.
Mofaz told Dahlan that Israeli intelligence is aware of various
groups plotting new attacks and if the PA does not act against those
groups as they become "ticking bombs," Israel will. Dahlan demanded
the immediate opening of the Erez, Karni and Rafah crossings in Gaza,
and Mofaz agreed to open Erez and Rafah. As for Karni, first Israel
wants a detailed security plan from the PA. Israeli and Palestinian
officers met yesterday to discuss security at Karni.
The Palestinians promised to hand over a detailed plan for accepting
security control in the West Bank cities ahead of a ministerial
meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Thursday
meant to discuss Israeli gestures toward the Palestinians.
In another development, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said
yesterday that there cannot be peace in the Middle East unless the
Palestinians attain a state that satisfies their aspirations. Israel
also must recognize that the Palestinian state, which she said
was "within our grasp," must be viable and contiguous - meaning with
enough land to function well.
Due in Israel and the West Bank for talks next Monday, Rice delivered
her message in a conversation with State Department employees. "I
don´t think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian state that is
viable, that can meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people,
there really isn´t going to be a peace for either the Palestinian
people or the Israelis," she said.
She called on Arab states to stop incitement to violence, but her
emphasis was on Israel having to yield territory and "creating
conditions in which a new Palestinian state could emerge."
Her remarks in a State Department auditorium preceded a meeting with
Sharon´s closest adviser, Dov Weisglass, who is in Washington to
bring Rice up to date on the prospects of Sharon holding talks with
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas and on chances of a cease-fire.
Israeli Ambassador to Washington Danny Ayalon said Weisglass was
emphasizing "the importance of broadening security cooperation so
that it will lead to more cooperation for disengagement" in Gaza.
The Sharon-Abbas summit next week now appears to be shaping up as a
discussion of security concerns, and will not immediately plunge into
political negotiations, according to sources in Abbas´ entourage as
he visited Moscow yesterday. According to Palestinian and Egyptian
sources, the summit will be aimed at winning Israeli guarantees to
maintain the cease-fire, which despite optimistic reports, has not
been hammered down yet.
In addition, with the transfer of the five West Bank cities to the
Palestinians now apparently postponed to next week, the summit will
also focus on a timetable not only for those five cities, but for a
general Israeli withdrawal to the pre-intifada lines.
One key issue for the Palestinians is prisoner releases. Despite
reports yesterday that the Palestinians would be demanding the
release of all the estimated 8,000 Palestinians held by Israel, Abbas
understands that it is very unlikely he will win their freedom next
week, PA sources said.
The sources said that so far in the talks, both formal and informal,
between Israel and the Abbas bureau, much smaller numbers of prisoner
releases are under discussion, with a focus on prisoners in jail
since before Oslo, aged and ailing prisoners and those who have
already served at least two-thirds of their sentences. The
Palestinians also want the release of political prisoners, like
senior activists from Fatah and other organizations, as well as
administrative detainees and people sentenced to short prison terms.
The Defense Ministry has already asked the Justice Ministry to
convene the special committee on prisoner releases to examine the
cases of hundreds of Palestinians slated for release. Tomorrow,
Sharon will convene the inner security cabinet to confirm goodwill
gestures to the Palestinians that the interministerial committee will
approve later in the week. (© Copyright 2005 Haaretz. 02/01/05)
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