Stopping Palestinian Terrorism Is First On Israel's Agenda
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - With the end of the war in Iraq apparently drawing near, the focus in the Middle East is likely to shift back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and Israel is seeking clarification from the U.S. regarding plans for the establishment of a Palestinian state, a senior Israeli government source said on Monday.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's bureau chief Dov Weisglass reportedly is scheduled to travel to Washington in the next week or two to discuss the so-called "road map." The prime minister's office declined comment on the reports, however.
Washington has said that it will publish the road map as soon as the cabinet of the new Palestinian Authority prime minister has been confirmed.
According to a senior Israeli government source, as long as the "road map" that has been developed over the last months by the Quartet -- the U.S., European Union, Russia and United Nations -- is in accordance with President Bush's Middle East policy speech from last June, Israel does not have a problem with it.
In that speech, Bush called for a halt to violence and terrorism and radical changes in the PA, including the election of a leader without a terrorist background.
At the time, the speech provoked an outcry among Palestinians. But guided by advisors from the Quartet, the PA has attempted to make changes in several areas. Under intense international pressure, Arafat appointed Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) prime minister.
"[We're] in the process of clarifications with the U.S.," said the Israeli source, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The question for Israel is whether or not the "road map" developed by the Quartet is similar to that of President Bush's vision.
The most important point for Israel is that an end to violence and terrorism precedes any renewal of negotiations, the source said.
Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, who was in Washington last week, said on Monday that Israel won't compromise when it comes to security matters, and that includes a cessation of Palestinian terrorism.
"We don't think that the Palestinians [should] get any reward for the fight against terrorism," Shalom said after a meeting with the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
"They have to fight terrorism. Abu Mazen will have to destroy the infrastructure of terror. He will have to arrest the leaders of the terrorist organizations. He will have to stop the incitement in the radio, in the television, in the education system," he said.
With PA Chairman Yasser Arafat still at the head of the PA, both Israel and the U.S. have expressed their concerns over whether or not Abu Mazen will have the authority to crack down on terror.
There have been conflicting comments coming from administration officials as to whether or not the sides will be allowed to submit changes to the road map. There has been some concern here that the Quartet would try to impose a settlement on Israel.
But the senior source said there is "no possible [chance] to impose anything on Israel."
Israel is ready to make peace "from our own free will; we're yearning for peace [and] ready to make sacrifices [if it is] in the framework of an agreed solution," said the senior source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"I don't believe anyone will impose something on Israel," he said.
It is clear that both sides have different ideas about the peace process and what it will look like, but the road map will be acceptable to Israel as long as it follows the ideas put forward by Bush, he added.