Monday, March 31, 2008

U.S. 'Very Surprised' at Extent of Israeli Concessions

Gil Ronen

Israeli diplomatic sources said Sunday that the American delegation was very surprised at the extent of Israeli concessions to the Fatah-controlled "Palestinian Authority" (PA) announced by Defense Minister Ehud Barak. However, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was quick to say that they were not enough, and vowed to monitor Israel's execution of its promises. The latest Israeli concessions to the PA in Judea and Samaria include permission for construction of two new Arab neighborhoods in the Ramallah area, with a total of 5,000 to 8,000 housing units. In addition, about 50 closed roads will be opened in Samaria, thus enabling vehicular traffic between Jenin, Tulkarm, Kalkilya and Ramallah. The permanent IDF checkpoint in the Rimonim area will be removed.

Barak announced the decisions in the meeting he held with PA "Prime Minister" Salam Fayyad and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday.

Rice Talks Tough About Israeli Compliance
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some tough words for Israel Sunday regarding the "gestures" Israel has undertaken to carry out in Judea and Samaria.

"We will monitor exactly what the Israelis do and the purpose is to improve the Palestinians' freedom of movement," Rice said. "We want to be much more systematic about what is promised and what is
"We want to be much more systematic about what is promised and what is actually carried out," Rice added.
actually carried out," she added.

American special envoy General William Fraser, Rice explained, will be following Israel's implementation of the Road Map closely "and making sure that the road blocks are indeed removed and that this has an impact on the Palestinians' freedom of movement." Before Fraser arrived, she said, "we did not do this, and we received promises that the Israeli steps would be carried out within a short time. I expect this to happen very soon."

25 APCs, 125 more vehicles
The Israeli concessions also included the following:

1. PA para-military police stations will open in some areas under joint Israeli and PA control.

2. 700 PA police personnel will be deployed in the Jenin area, once they return from training in Jordan. Ultimate security responsibility will remain in Israel's hands.

3. Additional roadblocks and checkpoints in Judea and Samaria are to be removed by mid-May.

4. 25 APC's – out of 50 originally requested – and 125 additional vehicles and pieces of logistical equipment will be delivered to PA/Fatah hands.

5. Various restrictions on the movement of public figures will be eased.

6. Various restrictions on the movement of businessmen will be eased.

7. An additional 5,000 permits will be issued for Arab construction workers in Israel (the current quota is approximately 18,500).

8. The Sha'ar Ephraim Crossing for will be opened for commercial activity on Fridays.
Two new Arab neighborhoods in the Ramallah area. In addition, about 50 dirt roadblocks in Samaria will be removed.

9. Israel will allow the passage of businessmen from Arab countries, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the PA and Israel on a VIP footing (without checks) through Ben-Gurion International Airport, for the Bethlehem Economic Conference for Investors in May. Israeli businessmen will be allowed to enter Bethlehem for the conference. Businessmen attending the conference will be allowed to move in organized groups in Judea and Samaria cities, and into Israel (including Jerusalem and Nazareth).

10. Industrial Zones will be established in Jericho, Hevron (Tarkumiyah) and Mukibla. The Tarkumiya Industrial Zone will receive Turkish financing. Another industrial zone will be established in Jericho for the processing and marketing abroad of PA agricultural produce. Japan and Jordan will be involved in this project.

A statement issued after the talks said that "the parties have completed connection of 27 Palestinian villages in [Judea and Samaria] to the Israeli power grid and, in an unprecedented action, have connected Jericho to the Jordan power grid."

PA will 'work' against terror
The agreements reached in the talks between Rice, Barak and Fayyad include only one commitment by the PA. "For its part, the Palestinian Authority will deploy security forces to provide law and order, and work to prevent terror," the statement issued by the American delegation said.

American officials voiced satisfaction with the Israeli "gestures." However, the sources said, Israel needs to do even more to make the Arabs' lives better.

Rice will meet Jordan's King Abdullah Sunday evening and will meet Prime Minister Olmert again Monday. She will then meet the heads of the Israeli and Arab negotiating teams, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Ahmed Qureia ("Abu Ala").

Opposition chairman Binyamin Netanyahu told U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice Sunday that a permanent status arrangement with the PA that does not leave the IDF in charge of "large areas" of Judea and Samaria would lead to a Hamas takeover and the creation of additional Iranian bases there.

"We cannot transfer responsibility for security to subcontractors. Security needs to stay in the IDF and the security establishment. The practical way is an economic peace with the Palestinians," Netanyahu said after the meeting.

"If we abandon security to the care of others, we will receive rockets," the Likud chairman said. "We are the ones protecting Abu Mazen, he isn't protecting us."

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