Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Cease Fire Agreed To, But Will It Be Implemented?
With CIA chief George Tenet threatening to pack his bags and leave, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat gave reluctant approval to the US cease-fire plan in a late-night meeting. "We have accepted the American document," said Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, adding that Arafat had expressed reservations. Both sides say they see the plan as a way to begin implementation the Mitchell report, which calls for a cessation of violence followed by a cooling-off period and confidence-building measures, including a freeze on Jewish settlement activity in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. "The Palestinian side did not sign this document today," Abed Rabbo said. "Palestinians will sign it only when the whole package on the Mitchell recommendations is agreed, foremost being a halt to all settlement activities. This paper is considered a working plan as part of a whole package." He said the Palestinians expected the US to work toward lifting Israelâ€™s tight closure of Palestinian areas and moving Israeli troops back to positions held before the uprising. Israel says violence must cease before it makes any concessions.
Despite the cease-fire, violence is continuing. While Arafat and Tenet met, Palestinian gunmen opened fire on a car near the Jewish community of Maâ€™ale Adumim outside of Jerusalem, killing a Greek monk. The car had Israeli licence plates. Later, two Israelis were wounded in Palestinian shooting attacks. A 21-year-old woman was seriously wounded while standing at a bus stop near the Jewish community of Ofra in Samaria. The army said the shots were fired from the nearby Palestinian village of Ein Yabroud. Near Palestinian-ruled Tulkarm, a member of an Israeli road construction crew was wounded in the leg by shots fired from a nearby Palestinian village. The shootings underscores sharp opposition to the cease-fire from Arafatâ€™s Fatah faction which has been leading armed attacks against Israel during the intifada. Fatah leader Marwan Barghouti said that the United States is trying to force the Palestinians to end their uprising without guaranteeing them political achievements. In the Gaza Strip, leaders of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas said attacks against Israel would continue.
Tenet met today with senior Israeli and Palestinian security officials to try to hammer out a timetable for implementing the cease-fire. Israel said it considered the truce to have taken effect with the end of the three-way meeting, at 3 p.m. (noon GMT), and Israeli media said the two sides would begin carrying out some of the cease-fire provisions in the next 48 hours. However, Palestinian officials described the meeting as a failure, saying Israel did not commit to specific steps, such as easing the closure. "There were no practical Israeli steps yet," said Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub. "They are not serious about dealing positively with the Tenet proposal." US officials said the meeting was productive and constructive, but said there was no final agreement on implementation. Both sides are extremely skeptical that the cease-fire will hold. A key sticking point remains the demand that the Palestinians arrest Islamic militants, something Palestinians officials say is not going to happen. Each side expects the other to act first, so the feeling on both sides is that, at best, the cease-fire will be an interval between the next round of violence. However, if there is a cessation of violence, Israeli officials promise prompt action. "When the fire stops completely, we will be able to see changes on the ground within a short period of time, regarding pulling back forces and returning life to normal," Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar told Israel radio.
President Bush welcomed the cease-fire today, calling on both sides to build trust and move forward. At a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Bush said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the agreement would end the violence. "All the parties must now take additional steps that will place them on the road to a just and lasting peace," Bush said. "All the parties must build trust by demonstrating good faith in words, but more importantly in deeds...This process is difficult but hopefully it's now begun." Earlier, Bush spoke to Tenet by telephone while flying aboard Air Force One from Madrid. White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush told Tenet, "The United States is looking for progress, and so is the world." Bush said he will not decide to visit the region, or send Secretary of State Colin Powell there until "the cycle of violence has been finally broken." "The wonderful news is that we've signed a document. But the fundamental question is will parties take steps to peace," Bush said. "It's important that these parties now take the document that has been signed and implement it."