US may revive Mideast envoy (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 02/01/05)
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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is considering resurrecting
the role Anthony Zinni played in 2001 as a security go-between to
prod the Palestinian Authority and Israel into implementing the Tenet
cease-fire plan, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
Diplomatic officials said Rice´s visit next Sunday is an indication
that the "US is back in this in a big way," and that this will be
manifest in a greatly enhanced security role for the US.
Rice´s predecessor, Colin Powell, sent Zinni here as a special envoy
in November 2001 to meet regularly with the two sides and to help
them achieve a durable cease-fire along the lines of the plan drawn
up earlier that year by former CIA head George Tenet.
Among other things, the Tenet plan called on the PA to apprehend,
question and incarcerate terrorists; provide Israel with the names of
those arrested; collect mortars and other illegal arms; close mortar
factories; provide Israel with information on expected terror
actions; and prevent illegal arms
Under the plan, Israel was called upon to refrain from attacking PA
military and civil institutions and headquarters; use non-lethal
weapons to disperse demonstrations; release prisoners not involved
in "terror activities," such as those arrested for throwing rocks;
redeploy to the September 28, 2000, lines; and lift the closures and
blockades in the territories.
Zinni´s job, and the job that a new US official is likely to be
charged with filling, is to lead the two sides into a position where
they actually take those steps.
Zinni left the region in April 2002, only five months after he
arrived, because unceasing terrorist attacks made his job impossible.
According to diplomatic officials, the recent calm has given rise to
the idea that the time is now ripe for a similar mission.
The appointment of someone to fill this role would go a long way to
allaying Israeli concerns that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas intends on
securing a period of quiet by reaching an internal Palestinian cease-
fire, or hudna, but has no real intention of dismantling the
terrorist infrastructure, as called for in the road map.
One US official said that when Rice arrives on Sunday, she will tell
both the PA and Israel that the ultimate goal is not only for the PA
security officials to instill law and order into the territories, but
also for the terrorist infrastructure to be torn down.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon´s aide, Dov Weisglass, met late Monday
night in Washington with Rice for a preparatory meeting before she
arrives next Sunday. During her 24-hour trip, Rice is expected to
split her time between meetings with the Israeli and PA leadership.
According to diplomatic officials, there is some concern in
Washington that Sharon in an attempt to appease his right wing in
the run-up to the disengagement may issue wholesale tenders for the
construction of new housing units in the settlements.
Rice is expected to convey the message that, regardless of whether
the settlement is Ma´aleh Adumim or Yitzhar, Israel should refrain
from such a move.
Rice, who received a commitment from Weisglass last April that Israel
would dismantle unauthorized settlement outposts, is also sure to
raise this issue and express US frustration that this has not yet
Israeli officials have recently told their US counterparts that the
issue of what constitutes an illegal outpost where and how many
there are will largely be cleared up by a report written by Talia
Sasson for the Prime Minister´s Office that is due out shortly.
Sasson, a former Justice Ministry official, was charged in August
with presenting a report on the legal issues involved in dismantling
the unauthorized settlements.
Rice is also expected to express to Sharon US displeasure about a
secret government decision from July to apply the Absentee Property
Law to lands and buildings owned by Palestinians living outside the
boundaries of post-Six Day War Jerusalem. This move reportedly allows
Israel to confiscate property owned by Palestinians who are separated
from their land by the security barrier.
Despite these issues, US officials said Washington is "comfortable"
with the moves Sharon is currently making, including proceeding with
the disengagement plan, reciprocating to steps taken by Abbas, and
not taking issues such as a possible prisoner release off the
agenda of his scheduled meeting next week with the PA leader.
Rice is also expected to discuss the disengagement plan with Sharon,
and the possibility of coordinating certain parts of it with the PA.
Although the plan has up to now largely been unilateral, Washington
is picking up signals that Sharon now seems ready to make the
Palestinians part of the process. At the same time, Israel has made
it clear that two aspects of the plan the timing and the scope of
the withdrawal will not be discussed with the PA.
Among the issues Sharon has signaled a willingness to discuss are the
handing over of the assets in the settlements, as well as an orderly
handing over of security control. The US position is that such
coordination would give Israel more confidence that the Gaza Strip
won´t degenerate into chaos after the withdrawal, and would give the
Palestinians a better opportunity to prepare for the "day after."
Diplomatic officials said intense discussions with international
bodies about the final dispensation of the assets left behind the
homes, agricultural facilities and buildings have not yet begun,
and no decisions have yet been made. The only thing that seems
certain at this point is that the synagogues will be dismantled to
prevent their desecration. (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 02/01/05)
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