Clinton-Barak Meeting Ends; Arafat Wants 'Holy War' to Continue

Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:08pm EDT
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Jerusalem ( - Washington's special Mideast envoy Dennis Ross is expected to hold talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders in the region later this week, following a weekend meeting between President Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak that produced no breakthroughs.

With just two months left in the White House, Clinton met with Barak on Sunday and with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat last Thursday in an effort to end more than six weeks of violent confrontations and bring the two sides back to the negotiating table.

Illustrating how far apart the sides are, Arafat on Sunday called for a continuation of what he called a "holy war." Muslim leaders also demanded that Islamic states sever relations with Israel.

Shooting attacks and riots continued on Sunday, leading to the death of a 16-year-old Palestinian. Several dozen other Palestinians were wounded. Palestinian gunmen opened fire on the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo late in the morning, breaking an established pattern of firing in the late afternoon and evenings, sending residents and schoolchildren running for cover.

Emerging from his meeting with Clinton, Barak said the two leaders had discussed the "importance of putting an end to the violence in the Middle East, stabilizing the situation" and implementing ceasefire understanding reached between Israel and the PA in Egypt last month.

"Israel strives for peace but a peace that will be reached around the negotiating table, rather than through imposing of the will of one side of the other or through international [diplomatic] activity," Barak told reporters.

Clinton made no comments after the meeting, at which he was to have briefed Barak on his meeting last week with Arafat.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv could not elaborate on Ross' expected program in the region. The diplomat has been involved in the process since it began in the early 1990s. He recently announced he would leave the post at the end of the Clinton administration next January.

Addressing an Organization of the Islamic Conference in Qatar on Sunday, Arafat called for a continuation of the violence.

"Despite the heavy human losses which exceed more than 200 martyrs ... our people are determined, more than any other time, to continue their holy war in the al-Aqsa intifada (uprising) with the help of our brothers and friends," Arafat told the gathering of Muslim leaders.

The three-day OIC summit opened with a moment of silence in honor of the Palestinians killed in the clashes.

OIC leaders are expected to approve a draft resolution calling on Muslim states to cut all ties with Israel and stop the process of normalization relations until Israel implements key United Nations resolutions regarding the West Bank and Gaza Strip, according to their interpretation.

According to a report in the Arabic Beirut newspaper An-Nahar on Monday, member states were also encouraged to cut ties with any country which recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital or moves its embassy to the city.

Washington has pledged for years to move the U.S. embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Clinton postponed the move by invoking a special presidential security waiver.

Gathered at the summit are most of the oil-producing countries worldwide.

"These nations can take active steps to make the West understand that it must change its policy toward Israel and pressure Israel to comply with U.N. resolutions," Arafat's advisor Bassam Abu Sharif was quoted as saying.

The Israeli Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the summit before it was over and had been carefully analyzed. However, spokesman Noam Katz did say a major factor was whether decisions taken by the summit in fact become operative.

Egypt, Jordan and Mauritania are three Muslim nations that have maintained ties with Israel.

Katz said there has been no indication that either Egypt, which signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1981 or Jordan, which signed a treaty in 1994, intended to sever their ties with Israel.
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