Barak Says US has no Plan to End Crisis with Palestinians
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told a meeting of his cabinet Sunday that the United States did not have a plan that would end the wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence and revive peace talks, according to AFP.
"There is no American plan for resolving the current crisis with the Palestinians and, thus, there is no rejection of such a plan on our part," Barak said, according to a statement from his office.
The statement was referring to Israeli media reports that Barak was reluctant to see further US mediation to try to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis.
"The two countries jointly aspire for a reduction in violence and want to examine the chances for resuming the negotiations," it said.
Haaretz newspaper reported that Barak was keen to fend off American initiatives at mediating a diplomatic solution with the Palestinians in view of his assessment that the chances of Israel and the Palestinians reaching an agreement do not exceed 10 percent.
During a telephone conversation on Friday with US President Bill Clinton, Barak rejected the US president's offer to do everything in his power to help Israel and the Palestinians reach an agreement during the last seven weeks he has left in the White House, the paper said.
"No thank you," was Barak's response. "We are not dealing with diplomatic negotiations at this time, but with an effort to significantly lower the levels of violence," he explained to Clinton.
The US president was trying to convince his Israeli counterpart of the need for Israel to cooperate with the international committee of inquiry into the causes of the violence in the territories between the Palestinians and Israel.
The committee, under the leadership of former Senator George Mitchell, is planning a visit to the area in less than two weeks, said the paper.
Mitchell himself is eager to complete the committee's report sometime in March, 2001. Nonetheless, the committee has not yet formed the teams of experts - probably military observers from various countries - who will collect the information necessary for the completion of the report.
Haaretz said that during their telephone conversation, Barak tried to convince Clinton of the need to put the fact-finding committee's activities on hold, due to the continuing violence in the territories.
According to Haaretz, the differences between Israel and the United States appeared to be even deeper when the subject of the special military assistance package Israel had requested from the Americans was raised by Barak.
"I will have to check into it," was the president's noncommittal response. The aid package has met with difficulties in getting Congressional approval, and Barak is concerned that it will not be approved.
Israeli diplomatic sources explained their caution regarding the American initiatives by arguing that the stance, which Washington has taken since the outbreak of the violence has been "balanced," said the paper.
"An analysis of the American position since the Camp David summit [last July] shows that there has been a tendency away from support for Israel and a movement towards the Palestinians, in all aspects," a senior Israeli diplomatic source told the daily.
In the meantime, Israel has notified the US Administration that it is not interested in a visit by Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross at this time, reported the Jerusalem Post Sunday.
that until Israel sees a significant reduction in violence “on the part of the Palestinians,” a visit by Ross would be “pointless,” the paper quoted the Israeli Radio as saying.
Barak said Israel and the Palestinian Authority were “already in contact” in efforts to reduce violence, the paper added – (Several Sources)
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