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US may revive Mideast envoy (JERUSALEM POST) By HERB KEINON 02/01/05)Source: http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?pagename=JPost/JPArticle/ShowFull&cid=1107141483739&p=1078027574097 JERUSALEM POST JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
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 smuggling.

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 taken place.

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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