Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Tuesday of undermining peace efforts by dragging its feet over promises to free prisoners and pull back from West Bank cities.
The comments come after Israeli Defense Minister Saul Mofaz told Israel Radio that Israel has not yet finalized the timetable for the transfer of West Bank towns to the control of the Palestinian security forces. Speaking on Israel Radio, Mofaz said that the government is also yet to decide on the order in which the towns will be handed over, rebuffing reports that Tul Karm will be transferred on Tuesday.Mofaz is expected to meet Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at the Erez crossing on Tuesday evening, in an attempt to break the deadlock in the security talks between the sides.High-ranking talks between the two sides were suspended after last month's Tel Aviv attack. One of the main issues on Tuesday's agenda will be the handing over of security responsibility for the West Bank cities to the Palestinians. Addressing the Palestinian parliament in the West Bank city of Ramallah, Abbas voiced his toughest criticism of Israel since agreeing a cease-fire with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon a month ago."The Israeli delay in implementing the commitments constitutes a threat to what we have succeeded in achieving and gives excuses to those who are plotting to sabotage the entire peace process," Abbas said. "We have proven our commitment and seriousness ... despite continued occupation and poor capabilities," Abbas said.
Meanwhile, a large contingent of Israeli occupation troops invaded early Tuesday morning the West Bank city of Jenin under a barrage of heavy gunfire and imposed a curfew on the area. According to local Palestinian sources, Israeli forces targeted the western neighborhood of the city and forced those inside the houses out, launching a wide-scale arrest campaign and detaining locals.
During his Ramallah speech, Abbas restated the Palestinian demand for political negotiations for statehood alongside efforts to end violence. Abbas also stressed that Palestinians would not stand for an increase in Jewish settlements in the West Bank as a result of Sharon's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip this summer.
"We also reiterate our total rejection of the idea of a provisional state," Abbas said, reacting to a suggestion floated by some Israelis for a halfway house before full statehood.
© 2005 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )