Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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11 Tishrei 5766 - October 15, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Joint Israeli-Palestinian Statement Issued

by M Plaut and Yated Ne'eman Staff

The on-again off-again meeting between Israeli prime minister Sharon and PA leader Abu Mazzen seems to be definitely off after a meeting on Monday produced a joint statement by the Israeli-Palestinian steering committee chaired by Dov Weisglass and Saeb Erekat. Both sides expressed their obligation to fully implement their Roadmap commitments and the Sharm el-Sheikh understandings and reiterated the obligation to halt acts of violence.

Abu Mazzen is scheduled to travel to Washington for a meeting with US President George Bush on October 20, and the Americans asked the Palestinians to ensure that the meeting takes place before then. According to the statement, the meeting may be held after Abu Mazzen returns.

Both sides have been saying that the meeting should be productive and not just a photo opportunity, but they have different conceptions of what productivity means.

The Palestinians want four main things: the release of long- serving prisoners who were incarcerated before the Oslo Accords; the release of two "special" prisoners — an elderly detainee, and detainee suffering from a terminal illness; an arrangement that would allow the Church of the Nativity deportees to return to their homes in the West Bank; and the transfer of additional territory to the PA, with Ramallah and Hebron taking top priority. The Palestinians have also said that they want more arms.

The so-called "long-serving" prisoners are all criminals who committed bloody crimes (or else they would not be in jail any more after more than 15 years). Israel has said that it is not prepared to release prisoners "with blood on their hands."

An Israeli official said that Israel is willing to make certain gestures to the Palestinians, but it thinks that releasing prisoners with "blood on their hands" would help Hamas and not the PA. Sharon is said to be opposed to the Palestinian request for additional light weapons, but may allow them to receive more bullets.

"The territories are awash with weapons," an official said. "If Abbas needs more guns, he should begin to confiscate them from Hamas. The problem is not weapons, but will."

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz is against supplying the Palestinians with arms and handing over additional West Bank cities in the near future. Mofaz believes the PA has yet to prove its commitment to combating terror. Without such action, Mofaz believes there is no justification for taking such risks at present.

Shin Bet chief Yuval Diskin argued that his agency sees no reason not to provide the PA's security forces with additional arms so that they can put on a show of strength against Hamas.

In the statement issued on Monday, it said that the two sides decided to resume the work of the joint committees in order to advance the issues on the agenda, including:

* A joint security committee to discuss, among other issues, the transfer of additional Palestinian cities to the responsibility of the Palestinian Authority (PA).

* The resumption of the joint committee on fugitives and deportees.

* The resumption of the joint committee on prisoners.

* The resumption of the work of the steering committee.

It was decided that teams of experts from both sides will meet on a regular basis in order to accelerate the discussions and reach agreements on the aforementioned issues, according to the parameters outlined in quartet emissary James Wolfensohn's letter to the prime ministers.

It was agreed that the two leaders would meet regularly in order to personally accompany and evaluate the process and in order to resolve disagreements through dialogue and negotiation.

Israel stated its intention to initiate an easing of humanitarian and economic restrictions on the Palestinian population.

It was agreed that after PA Chairman Abu Mazzen returns from Washington, the two leaders would meet in order to evaluate the committees' progress.

After its Disengagement, Israel feels under no pressure to make further concessions to the PA. The Palestinians, on the other hand, keep insisting on concrete actions such as prisoner release by Israel, but take no actions of their own.


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