US avoids blaming Israel for current stalemate
Palestine-Israel-USA, Politics, 4/22/1998
There seems to be some indication that US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright will launch her new peace initiative during her separate meetings in London next month with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat still believes there is a fair chance that the US administration will present its long-awaited initiative. Erekat said that US Special Envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross is due to arrive on Sunday in an attempt to prepare the ground for the London meetings. He urged the US administration to come forward with its peace ideas and not to threaten to pull itself out of the peacemaking efforts.
"The US has to launch its initiative very clearly instead of threatening to withdraw from the peace process," said Erekat. He said the Arafat-Netanyahu meeting will take place in London only if Israel agrees to pull its troops out of 13.1 percent of the West Bank territories, as suggested by the US, even though such a scope is far less than what the Palestinians demand.
Palestinian analysts argued the US threat is apparently directed at the Palestinians, who are considered to be the weaker party. They said that the US hopes to lead Palestine into a position where it will have no option but to accept Israeli demands and conditions, out of fear of the total collapse of the peace process. The Palestinians do not want to be blamed for any failure of the efforts and therefore the US thinks they can be forced into accepting all Israeli demands, said one observer in Ramallah Wednesday.
Palestinian Minister of Information Yasser Abed Rabbo, meanwhile, blamed Israel for the present stalemate and said the Israeli government is seeking through various means and games to obstruct the peace process and to lead it into a self-eroding situation. Abed Rabbo said only international pressure and efforts can give a new push or some life to the peace process.
Speaking in an interview with the Voice of Palestine on Wednesday, Abed Rabbo accused the US administration of attempting to avoid blaming Israel for the present stalemate through calling on both parties to take tough decisions. The US, said Abed Rabbo, knows that Palestine has accepted the US ideas for peace and yet continues to call on both sides to take tough decisions as if both share the blame for the present impasse. The US Administration does not want to admit that the Palestinians have upheld their part of the interim agreement and that Israel is obstructing the process.
Israeli sources, meanwhile, said the visit to Cairo next week by Netanyahu and his meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak seems to be a new push by Egypt to prepare the ground for the London meeting. A senior political source was quoted in the Hebrew press Wednesday as saying that Cairo is capable of smelling some success on the horizon and would like to be part of it. Egyptian President Mubarak finally decided to invite Netanyahu after almost a whole year of lack of contact between the two sides "and there is something in that move," said the source.
In a related development, US Vice President Al Gore is expected to hold a shuttle diplomatic effort between both Israel and Palestine during his trip to the region next week. Gore is arriving in Israel to attend the major 50th independence anniversary of Israel by the end of this month.
He is expected to visit Ramallah on the West Bank and meet with Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Sources said he would bring with him a message from President Clinton. Gore will apparently try to advance the US peace initiative, which might be officially presented by US Secretary of State Albright on May 4 in London.
Current conditions reviewed with Arafat's advisor Nabil Abu Rudeineh
Uncertainty about next step as Ross leaves
Ross, like Baker, brought more settlements with every trip
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