Israel, PA To Sign Ceasefire, But Skepticism Remains
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials are meeting with CIA chief George Tenet Wednesday to finalize the details of a ceasefire agreement, after the PA accepted the main points of the deal overnight.
The diplomatic efforts are intended to end nearly nine months of bloodshed, which has claimed some 500 lives. Meanwhile, the violence continues. A 17-year-old Israeli was wounded Wednesday in a shooting attack as she waited at a bus stop near a Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Security sources said shots had been fired at the girl from a home in a nearby Palestinian village. As she tried to flee, she was shot in the neck.
Overnight a Greek monk was shot dead as he drove his car on the outskirts of Jerusalem, in the first attack of its kind in the area. Gur Pzipokatsatakis was evidently mistaken for an Israeli, since his car had Israeli license plates, security officials said.
PA accepts ceasefire
The PA announced on Wednesday that it had accepted the ceasefire. Israel had made a similar announcement earlier on Tuesday.
"We have accepted the American document. Implementation will begin [Wednesday]," PA information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters after a five-hour, late-night meeting between Tenet and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.
"There will be a trilateral security meeting as well as a bilateral political meeting with the Americans," Abed Rabbo added.
Earlier Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that he couldn't say that Israel was "excited about every aspect" of the ceasefire agreement but that "all in all it allows us to work and try to move forward."
The U.S. Embassy confirmed that the two sides had accepted the plan, the goal of which, it said, was to resume security cooperation, end the violence and restore the situation on the ground as it was prior to the outbreak of trouble.
Earlier, Tenet reportedly threatened to leave the region if the two sides did not agree on an accord. A PA official said Tenet told Arafat that if he left without an agreement it could be interpreted as a "green light" for Israeli air attacks on Palestinian targets.
Palestinians vow to continue uprising
As Tenet and Arafat met in the PA-controlled city of Ramallah, hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside to protest the ceasefire and vow to continue the uprising.
The West Bank leader of Arafat's Fatah faction, Marwan Barghouti, said the crowd had gathered to tell the CIA chief, "who came to save Sharon" that he should "get out of here!"
"We tell Arafat to reject bowing to Tenet and to reject Tenet's proposals. Our resistance will continue until occupation ends," Barghouti added.
Hamas leader Abdel Rahman Rantisi vowed that the uprising would not be aborted.
According to Israeli media reports, the Tenet plan demands that the PA re-arrest Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists. Earlier, PA officials said that they would only arrest those that carried out attacks since the ceasefire was put in place.
Israel is required to pullback immediately from forward positions it has occupied during the last nine months and lift the security blockade around PA areas.
President Bush said he was pleased by the ceasefire agreement but wanted to see proof that it would put a stop to the violence. Bush, on his first visit to Europe, spoke by telephone with Tenet.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush hoped the ceasefire "endures as a necessary step in leading up towards confidence-building measures" in the region.
Israelis are skeptical that Arafat will keep his word. The ceasefire must hold for a period of six weeks, and Israeli officials have said that if there is any violence - including stone throwing incidents - the countdown will stop.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said there is "no point" in demanding less than 100 per cent success from Arafat.
"If Arafat makes a 100 percent effort there will be 100 percent results, from his standpoint," Peres said in a radio interview. He said Arafat had in the past "proved himself capable of doing this."
d"If there's a case in which Arafat tried to prevent a terrorist attack and did not succeed, that's one thing. But if there's an attack that Arafat did not try to prevent, that's something different," he said.
Following a six-week period of calm, the two sides are to begin to implement "confidence building measures," which will include a complete halt to settlement building on Israel's part.
Those measures are intended to lead the two sides back to the negotiating table, which Arafat abandoned at the failed Camp David summit last summer.