Israelis and Palestinians Suspicious of Clinton Agreement
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israelis and Palestinians reacted with skepticism Tuesday to President Clinton's announcement that Israel and the Palestinian Authority have agreed to a ceasefire to end clashes that have taken more than a hundred lives in the past three weeks.
A statement by President Clinton -- instead of a signed agreement between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat -- left the two sides wondering if the agreement would stick.
Speaking at a short and tense final ceremony, Clinton said the two sides had agreed to three conditions: an end to the violence of the past 20 days; a U.S.-sponsored fact-finding committee; and resumption of negotiations.
"Both sides have agreed to issue public statements unequivocally calling for an end of violence," Clinton said in the televised address.
"They also agreed to take immediate concrete measures to end the current confrontation, eliminate points of friction, ensure an end to violence and incitement, maintain calm and prevent recurrence of recent events."
Israeli acting foreign minister Shlomo Ben-Ami said Israel was "satisfied" with the results of the summit. "Israel is satisfied. The objectives we came for have been met."
Israeli spokesman Nachman Shai issued a statement saying that all the goals of the conference had been achieved, including an agreement to end the current crisis on the ground and halt incitement, with U.S. monitoring of the security understandings that were reached there.
Another plus for Israel is that a commission of inquiry will be headed by the United States and not the United Nations, as the PA had demanded.
"The real test of the results of the Sharm conference will be in their implementation on the ground," Shai's statement said.
"If it turns out, God forbid, that [the summit] did not lead to a decrease in violence, it is vital for Israel to find any way to decrease the violence," Barak said. "And I say to my sorrow that we will know what to do in any situation that will develop."
PA Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said that it was important that Israel had agreed to "a lifting of the siege" and a end to "aggression," referring to Israel's agreement to open passage from the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Israel and open the Gaza airport.
PA Planning Minister Nabil Sha'ath said that Arafat was reluctant to agree to Clinton's statement. He said that the PA was not "happy" but that it had wanted to "protect the lives" of Palestinians.
The head of Arafat's Fatah organization, Marwan Barghouti, went a step further. He said that the agreement was doomed to fail.
Palestinian analyst Ghassan al-Khatib said in a telephone interview that he believed that summit objectives had been reached.
"The two sides achieved their objectives from the summit," al-Khatib said, stressing that no one had yet seen the actual text of the agreement, which was not signed by either party.
For the Palestinians, he said, there has been an agreement to end hostilities and for Israel to remove its tanks and end the closure imposed 12 days ago as well as the establishment of a committee of inquiry.
From Israel's side, al-Khatib reckoned, it would be satisfied with the agreement to stop the uprising.
The bottom line according to al-Khatib is whether or not the agreement will be implemented.
"We never had an agreement that Israel fully implemented," al-Khatib said.
Israel also claims that the PA has never properly implemented any of the signed agreements.
Spokeswoman for the Jewish settlements in Judea, Samaria (West Bank) and Gaza, Yehudit Tayar, said she hoped that Israel would not be "stupid enough" to implement the agreements without first demanding implementation by the other side.
"We're not na\'efve," said Tayar. "There has been violence all through the day...I wish I could say that we're going to see quiet."
Dr. Ron Breiman, spokesman for a nationalist lobby called Professors for a Strong Israel, said he was certain the agreement could not last for very long.
"We know we cannot trust Arafat," Breiman said. The PA police serve in uniforms during the day, but at night they change into civilian clothing and shoot at Israelis, he added. There was also the issue of the Hamas terrorists recently released by the PA.
"I want peace," Breiman said. "Oslo is not peace," he added, referring to the negotiating process, which has stretched over the past seven years, named after the Norwegian capital where the then secret talks first took place.