Report: Barak Working to Avoid another Summit with Palestinians
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak is making efforts to torpedo a US-Palestinian initiative to renew negotiations for a final status agreement, diplomatic sources were quoted as saying by Haaretz newspaper.
Barak was informed that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat told President Bill Clinton during their meetings at the Sharm al-Sheikh summit last week that he would agree to participate in another summit following the US presidential elections on November 7 in order to continue the negotiating process, said the paper.
The US administration had planned to renew the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians during the window between the presidential election and November 15, at which time the Palestinians plan to declare an independent state.
But Barak announced Friday that Israel will seek a time-out in negotiations with the Palestinians in order to reevaluate the peace process following the Arab summit which is ending today in Cairo.
He said that "the time-out is needed because we cannot carry on in the peace process as if nothing happened."
Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said that "Arafat is trying to have his cake and eat it too. He is setting the territories on fire and blames Israel, and of course he is saying that he is ready for another summit."
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Amnon Lipkin-Shahak attacked Barak's announcement, said the paper.
"A time-out is not a strategy and not even a tactic, and is not a solution to anything. The announcement is being interpreted as an Israeli declaration that there is no peace process, and that is a mistake. If this is the way to broaden the government, the diplomatic cost of this act is too high."
Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said that "the prime minister cannot decide by himself on a time-out. The decision to stop negotiations following nine years of contacts must be taken by the whole cabinet, and I hope that it will oppose such a move."
He added that the "decision is impractical, and from a diplomatic point of view, it will cause severe damage to our international standing because Israel will take on to itself the responsibility for stopping the process. This will also be a severe blow to President Bill Clinton who has invested in the process throughout his whole presidency."
Responding to the criticism, Barak issued clarifications Saturday, saying that the time-out is necessary as a result of the violations in the understandings of the Sharm al-Sheikh summit by the Palestinians, according to Haaretz - Albawaba.com
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