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Mofaz: IDF will only quit W. Bank towns when Gaza is quiet (HA´ARETZ NEWS) By Amos Harel and Arnon Regular 02/01/05)Source: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/534417.html HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE HA'ARETZ} NEWS SERVICE Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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, including:

* 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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