U.S., Israel Offer Arafat Incentives In Return For Calm

July 7, 2008 - 8:11 PM

(Editor's note: Patrick Goodenough formerly served as Jerusalem Bureau Chief for CNSNews.com)

(CNSNews.com)
- The U.S. and Israel both held out offers Tuesday to ease the diplomatic isolation of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, in return for an end to the 18-month violent uprising.

Vice President Dick Cheney, wrapping up a brief visit to Israel, held out the possibility of a meeting with Arafat in the region, in the near future, if a truce is reached.

Such a meeting would be the highest-level one between the PA leader and the Bush administration. President Bush's refusal to host Arafat at the White House has been a sore point for Palestinians, who became accustomed to seeing Arafat paying visits during the Clinton presidency.

There were hopes Tuesday that a truce could be declared after Israeli and PA security chiefs meet Wednesday.

Cheney said he expected Arafat to take decisive steps to end attacks on Israelis by the end of the week.

He said Arafat should "speak to his own people personally about the importance of ending violence and terrorism ... issue clear instructions to his security services to enforce the cease-fire and ... follow up closely these efforts to ensure implementation of the work plan."

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, meanwhile, said Israel would lift the restrictions on Arafat's movement, which have kept him confined to PA-ruled Ramallah since last December, to enable him to attend an Arab League summit in Beirut next week.

But Sharon hinted that Israel may not allow Arafat to return, if violence occurred during his absence, or if he used the platform to attack Israel rather than focus on "the importance of peace and regional stability."

PA officials rejected the implied threat. Senior representative Saeb Erekat said Israel had no right to dictate what Arafat should or shouldn't say.

The Beirut summit next Wednesday and Thursday is scheduled to hear a proposal by Saudi Arabia for Arab countries to recognize Israel in exchange for an agreement involving the withdrawal of territory captured from Egypt, Jordan and Syria during the 1967 Six Day War, Palestinian statehood, and a return of millions of refugees and their descendants.

Israel has long rejected the refugee demand, and says relevant U.N. resolutions call for a surrender of an undefined amount of the disputed territory, to be negotiated in a way that takes into account the resolutions' stipulation of the establishment of "secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

In the summer of 2000 Arafat rejected the most far-reaching Israeli offer yet for a peace deal, and that September Palestinians launched an uprising which has cost more than 1,200 Palestinian and more than 350 Israeli lives.

Violence levels rose in recent weeks, as the number and frequency of terrorist attacks increased. Dozens of Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israel forces sent into areas previously ceded to the PA in a bid to flush out terrorists.

The U.S. criticized Israel's actions, and Sharon pulled the forces out ahead of the visits by Cheney and the administration's Mideast peace envoy, Anthony Zinni. Sharon also dropped an earlier key demand for seven days of quiet before Israel would enter truce talks.

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