Palestinians rebuff US West Bank 'deal'

Palestinian authorities have said that any US assurance to Israel that it will not have to quit all of the West Bank in a future peace deal, will fly in the face of the "road map" and result in even more instability in the region.

    The West Bank and Gaza Strip were occupied in 1967

    Spokespersons for the Palestinian Authority and Hamas were reacting to a report in an Israeli newspaper on Sunday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon will receive, in exchange for a planned Gaza pullout, a written US assurance Israel will not have to quit all of the West Bank in any future peace deal.
    The paper said the pledge would be contained in a letter that US President George Bush will hand Sharon at their White House meeting on Wednesday.

    "Palestinians will not accept that, especially those working on the peace process", said Hamas representative in Lebanon, Usama Hamdan, "as they guaranteed for their people that they will have the Gaza Strip and West Bank".

    Should there be "no complete withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, it will destroy the entire peace process", said Hamdan,  speaking to "It would mean an end to their (the negotiators') political careers", he added.

    The Palestinians want all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, captured by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, for the state they hope to establish under a US-backed peace "road map".

    "This is our aim", said PA Foreign Affairs spokesperson Muhammad al-Wahbidi. "We accepted the road map because we want to see an independent Palestinian state."

    "There is no need to renegotiate", he added.

    Al-Wahbidi said the PA had not yet officially been informed the US was to give Israel those assurances, but added that "we will listen to the Americans and they will listen to us and in the end, we will know the guarantees and assurances".

    PA Chief negotiator, Nabil Shaath is also to meet with US Secretary of State, Colin Powell in the US later this month.

    Gaza backing

    US 'benefits' offered to Sharon will
    aid  his 'disengagement' plan

    Political analysts say the more benefits the United States offers Sharon in the meetings in Washington, the easier it will be for him to obtain backing at home for his declared plan to withdraw from Gaza and four of some 120 West Bank settlements.

    But, the newspaper said, Bush's letter will declare that Israel will not be asked in the future to withdraw to the pre-1967 boundary known as the "green line".

    Determination of borders in any final-status accord with the Palestinians will take into consideration "demographic realities" on the ground, the paper quoted from the letter in an indirect reference to Jewish settlements on occupied land.
    There was no immediate official Israeli comment on the report, according to Reuters.


    Palestinian refugees now total
    more than five million

    According to the newspaper, Bush's letter will effectively challenge any right of return by Palestinian refugees to what is now Israel, saying they can be absorbed in a future Palestinian state.

    The Hamas spokesperson told that the US will be helping Israel in not accepting the refugees' right of return. "Israel wants refugees to remain where they are now – such as Syria, Lebanon and Jordan, even those in the West Bank and Gaza Strip".

    "Israel wants them to settle there," Hamdan added.

    "It is a clear point for the Israelis and the US that they're not accepting the right of return, from the very beginning", he stressed. 


    "We accepted the road map because we want to see an independent Palestinian state...t

    here is no need to renegotiate"

    Muhammad al-Wahbidi,
    PA Foreign Affairs spokesperson

    Sharon plans to submit his "disengagement plan" this month to a binding vote by the 200,000 members of his right-wing Likud party, which like Sharon has long supported settlement building.

    Palestinians have said Sharon's unilateral steps contradict the road map's vision of mutual moves towards peace and a negotiated settlement leading to the creation of a Palestinian
    state by 2005.

    "The target of the negotiations is an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict", said al-Wahbidi. "This can only be achieved by the reimplementation of the Palestinian state, including soil occupied in the  1967 war".

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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