As Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres spoke here this week of a cease-fire plan that would lead to a resumption of peace talks, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered troops into another Palestinian refugee camp to destroy homes and huts used as cover to shoot at Israelis.
“There are differences of style and nuance,” Dore Gold, a senior aide to Sharon, explained of the Peres-Sharon approaches, “but the substance is the same.”
Even as Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak began preparing the country this week for the possibility that last-gasp peace efforts with the Palestinians would fail and that a regional war was increasingly likely, a glimmer of hope emerged.
Even as Palestinian terrorist groups rebuffed calls for a cease-fire, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made conciliatory gestures to moderate Palestinian leaders this week ahead of a Jan. 9 election to choose a successor to Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert promised this week to go anywhere — without preconditions — to meet leaders of the 22 Arab nations to discuss their peace proposal. His stance was welcomed by some Israelis, but discounted by others as nothing but a publicity stunt.
Israeli military and police forces were placed on high alert on the eve of Passover for fear of increased Palestinian terrorist attacks with the U.S. peace mission on the verge of collapse and Palestinian President Yasir Arafat prevented from attending this week’s Arab League summit in Beirut.
Israel Radio reported that all army leave was cancelled and all police personnel — especially in Jerusalem — were mobilized in an effort to thwart attacks.
Although the Palestinian Authority is planning new elections for early 2005, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom suggested Wednesday the vote will do nothing to promote the peace process, revealing for the first time that the current leadership rebuffed an offer to meet with him earlier this year.
Shalom, in a Jewish Week interview Wednesday, said that while visiting Spain a few months ago, then Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Martinos told him during dinner that Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath were coming to Madrid.
As a new Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal reportedly from Israeli President Shimon Peres was floated in the media this week, there were reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to accept a Palestinian state with provisional borders, something he had flatly ruled out. The change stems from Hamas’ forceful take-over of the Gaza Strip in June, according to Yaakov Bar Siman Tov, a professor in the International Relations Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Even though nearly three years of secret, unofficial Israeli-Syrian talks have ended, the Israeli who conducted the negotiations has not given up and believes it would take only four to six months for both sides to reach an agreement. Alon Liel, a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said he and his Syrian-American counterpart, Ibrahim Suleiman, have been invited to discuss their talks at an April 12 meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
TThe agreement in Mecca reached between Hamas and Fatah last week halted internecine warfare between the two groups but it failed to finalize the platform or makeup of their new coalition government, thereby casting doubt on the success of Monday’s Israeli-Palestinian summit in JerusalemSome Israeli officials reportedly sought to postpone the meeting, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who convened the summit, was said to have insisted that it proceed. Few expect anything positive.
The Bush administration is likely to rebuff a reported push by Russia to lift the international boycott of Hamas as part of the Quartet’s efforts to “re-energize” the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process, according to a former State Department official.
The meeting, scheduled for Friday in Washington, comes as a British parliamentary study warned that the West’s isolation of Hamas is only pushing it closer to Iran.