No hopes lifted by Albright's visit Saturday
Regional, Politics, 1/30/1998
Palestinian officials believe they have no reason to lift their hopes as US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright arrives in the region Saturday night since the main scope of her visit "is to try and forge an anti-Iraq coalition and not necessarily to deal with the stalled peace talks between Palestine and Israel.
A senior Palestinian negotiator said Friday that the Secretary of State will concentrate on Iraqi matters, and not on the crisis in negotiations between the Palestine and Israel. Hassan Asfour, head of the Palestinian negotiations department, said the US knows the position of Palestine "which hasnıt changed. We need now new steps for the implementation of what has been agreed upon. We donıt need any new, additional, documents, as the standing agreements are clear.²
Albright is expected to arrive in Israel Saturday night and hold meetings immediately afterwards with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. By Sunday noon, Albright is due to meet Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and then she is likely to visit a number of Middle Eastern and Gulf states. Observers believed Albright's mission this time will be a bit tough because on one hand she will try to get some sort of a compromise from both Israel and the Palestine while trying to convince a number of Arab states to rejoin a new anti-Iraq coalition.
In the last seven years that have followed since the end of the Gulf War, Arab and Palestinian leaders hoped that the bulk of US pressure will be directed on Israel to achieve a breakthrough in the Arab-Israeli conflict front. But after the right took over in Israel in 1996, hopes of a real breakthrough have gradually disappeared. Israeli sources said that in her new trip to the region, Albright might try to pressure Israel to carry out a phase withdrawal in weeks ahead in order to show the Arab world that the US remains committed to the peace process as it endeavors to forge some sort of coalition for a possible showdown with Iraq.
But Netanyahu seems to be well-prepared for a new pressure attempt from Albright. Sources in the PM office on Friday were quoted as saying that, knowing Albright's tour is primarily devoted to updating Israel on developments in the Arabian Gulf, Netanyahu will seek to gain her approval for stalling the third phase of West Bank redeployment until final status talks are resolved, a move strongly and totally rejected by the PNA and not encouraged by the US.
Maariv daily reported on Friday that the bait Netanyahu will try to use for Albright to accept his proposal is a ³relatively generous² pullout for the second phase (some 12 percent of the West Bank.) But infrastructure minister Ariel Sharon, who met with Netanyahu Friday, said he received confirmation from the prime minister that the upcoming phase of redeployment will not be that generous at all and that the offer does not exceed a one digit percentage.
Israeli military officials, meanwhile, said they believe the US will undertake a limited military action against Iraq and that Israel is taking into account US considerations and needs in this latest Gulf crisis, keeping a low public profile. But those officials said that should Iraq attack Israel with missiles, the Jewish state will refuse US requests not to retaliate. Israeli President Ezer Weizman said lately that missiles are never a one way trip, hinting that Israeli missiles will be fired at Iraq. According to western reports quoted in London, Israel might use a neutron bomb in its potential attack on Baghdad. The neutron bomb is a sophisticated weapon of mass destruction but it only affects human beings and leaves the rest intact. Yet these officials say that should Israel be attacked, it would refuse US requests not to retaliate. Assessments within the military intelligence branch in Israel speak of only one scenario in which Saddam Hussein might try to attack Israel and that is when he goes through a total state of despair.
A poll released Friday showed that the overwhelming majority of Israeli support an immediate response by Israel to Iraq should the latter launch a missile attack. Those who supported a military retaliation by Israel were 86 percent of the people while only 7 percent called on Israel to practice a self restraint, like it did during the 1991 Gulf War.
Please add a link on your webiste pointing to ArabicNews.com and bookmark ArabicNews.com & subscribe to our daily email news bulletin.
| Advertise on ArabicNews.com. MyFlowers.com sold more than $2700 of flowers in one month advertising on ArabicNews.com! Make your company, and products a success. Special rate for new and small business. Inquire!Advertising Info