Report criticises Israeli settlements
Palestine-Israel, Politics, 5/5/2001
The Mitchell Committee, set up to investigate the origins of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence, presented its preliminary findings to the parties concerned Friday, amid a rash of speculation about the report's conclusions.
Both Israelis and Palestinians will relay their comments on the 32-page Mitchell Report to US President George W. Bush, who will then decide on the time and manner in which the report will be published.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abd Rabbou said after receiving the draft report that the Palestinian leadership would give an initial response to it within 48 hours.
The Israeli Ha'aretz daily reported in its online site that the report will apparently focus on recommendations to prevent future conflicts, rather than on blaming either of the sides for past events.
Other media reports Friday said the findings slam both Israel's settlement policy in the occupied territories, and the Palestinians.
The committee is headed by former US Senator George Mitchell, who has in the past acted as peace broker in Northern Ireland.
Sharon's office, meanwhile, rejected remarks made by national Infrastructure Minister Avigdor Lieberman, in which he stated that the Israeli army should occupy land controlled by the Palestinian Authority.
In an interview published in the Ma 'ariv daily Friday, the Ultra-Nationalist Liberman said that if it were up to him, he would not hesitate to send the Israeli army into all Palestinian Authority lands for a period of 48 hours, so as to destroy all the Palestinian military infrastructure.
A poll published Friday in the Yediot Aharanot daily showed, however, that only three percent of Israelis supported reoccupying Palestinian-controlled territory.
The Dahaf Institute Poll found that 53 per cent of respondents preferred a diplomatic solution to the confrontations, as opposed to only 25 per cent who supported increased Israeli army pressure and 17 per cent, who said Israel should deport Palestinian leaders leading the violence.
Moreover, 62 per cent said Israel should agree to freezing settlement construction in return for a ceasefire, while 36 per cent opposed this option.
The poll's finding on this question, Yediot pointed out, is at variance with the official Israeli government positions, which says only that Israel will not build new settlements, but will continue construction in the existing settlements 'according to their natural growth.
The midweek poll was conducted among 501 representative Israelis adults, and had a margin of error of 4.5 per cent.
The violence, however, continued Friday, with heavy gun battles between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians north of Ramallah and a mortar attack - which caused no injuries - on the Israeli village of Kfar Azza, outside the Gaza Strip.
In another development, Israeli settlers defied international criticism and set up a small improvised settlement at a West Bank site where an Israeli settler was gunned down early Tuesday.
The new outpost caused an outcry among Palestinian leaders and Israeli moderates, who asked the government to remove it in accordance with government guidelines to build no new settlements.
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