Sharm al-Shaikh: Another false dawn?

Palestinians responded to the Sharm al-Shaikh summit with scepticism on Tuesday as Arab analysts warned the talks did not address any of the key issues behind the conflict.

    Many Palestinians say they are not optimistic about the talks

    Many Palestinians saw the talks as being lopsided in Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's favour.

    They said that while Palestinians agreed to a ceasefire with Israel, Sharon's government did not give Palestinians any concessions on the construction of settlements and a separation wall in the West Bank, or on the release of Palestinian prisoners from Israeli jails.

    "I don't see any achievement in any area," Mustafa al-Barghuthi, a presidential candidate in the 2005 elections, told

    "I was hoping the Palestinian position would be stronger on the wall and prisoners. This is much less than anything that can be described as a breakthrough," he said.

    Palestinian grievances

    The talks saw the Israeli and Palestinian leaders commit to a ceasefire, but thorny issues such as settlements and restrictions on movement have yet to be tackled.

    Some analysts questioned how long the ceasefire would hold when such major Palestinian grievances had not been addressed.

    Palestinians say Israelis will not
    stop work on the separation wall

    London-based Palestinian analyst and Al-Quds al-Arabi editor Abd al-Bari Atwan told "What about the morning after? How long will the ceasefire last and what are Palestinians getting in return?

    "How many Palestinian prisoners are going to be released? What about the other security checkpoints?

    He added: "Israelis are betting on Palestinian patience. What is he [Sharon] going to offer Palestinians to make their lives less miserable?"

    Although Sharon has agreed to release some detainees, the fates of most of the 8000 Palestinian prisoners held behind bars in Israel remains unclear.

    No stable basis

    While optimism about the talks may be thin on the ground in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, there is no denying that some Palestinians are hoping that a ceasefire will improve conditions after more than four years of conflict that has killed thousands.

    London-based Palestinian activist and analyst Ghada Karmi told "The Palestinians are on their knees. The Palestinians will almost do anything to get some betterment to improve their situation. This is not a stable basis for an agreement."

    "I thought the Palestinians had learned their lesson"

    Palestinian analyst Ali Jarbawi

    For their part, Palestinian resistance groups have been adhering to a de facto ceasefire for almost three weeks now in order to give newly elected Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas a chance to open negotiations with Israel. But Hamas says it is not committed to any official truce.

    "There was no agreement," Hamas spokesman in Lebanon Usama Hamdan said.
    "There are Palestinian demands and they were not raised at the summit. There was no Israeli commitment to the Palestinians. No one can count on this summit," Hamdan told

    Hamdan said Hamas would not accept the discussion of Israeli security when Palestinian security needs were not being addressed.

    Deja vu?

    Rime Allaf, Middle East analyst at the Royal Institute for International Affairs in London, questioned whether the Sharm al-Shaikh conference would actually facilitate Sharon's plan to withdraw from Gaza and allow him to concentrate on the colonisation of the West Bank. 

    Mustafa al-Barghuthi: I don't see
    any achievement in any area

    "This was a big ceremony [made] out of very little," she said. "A ceasefire is fine, but what kind of steps are being made on the other issues?

    "If this ends up paving the way for Sharon to leave Gaza, we are not getting anywhere," Allaf said.

    Some analysts saw a repeat of the 1993 Oslo agreement.

    "What we have is deja vu. We had Gaza and Jericho first in 1993. Now we just have Gaza. So in fact we have gone back a little bit," Allaf said.

    Palestinian political analyst Ali Jarbawi said: "I thought that the Palestinians had learned their lesson and wouldn't accept the continuation of the building of the wall and the settlement policy just to accept a ceasefire and go back to 'normal' negotiations while realities on the ground are being changed."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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