By Munir K. Nasser
The Clinton Administration is urging Palestinian President Yasser Arafat not to unilaterally declare an independent Palestinian state, according to State Department Spokesman Richard Boucher.
In his press briefing at the State Department on Friday, Boucher said Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addressed this issue when she met with Arafat in Ramallah this week. “The Oslo Accords that have gotten us to this stage were based on mutuality,” he said. “They were not based on unilateral decision-making, and we would be against unilateral declarations.”
In response to a question about the reaction of the United States government about the pressure that the Palestinians have applied by threatening to announce a Palestinian state and threatening to go back to Intifada, Boucher said “we've always urged the parties to help create an environment where it's conducive to an agreement.” He refused to comment on whether Albright has asked Arafat to back off of those kinds of pressures and threats.
Boucher denied that a Camp David-style summit would be “a last-ditch attempt because everything else has failed.” He said there was still a basis for the summit. “A basis for the summit doesn't mean everything is agreed in advance and we just go to sign a piece of paper, “ he explained. “There is a different dynamic that kicks in at the summit level, and certain decisions have to be made at the summit. The question is whether that basis exists and that we're close enough that we think that the summit can be effective. And that's the kind of assessment that the President and his advisors are making,” he stressed.
He said Albright has provided Clinton with a full report and assessment of where the circumstances lie right now following her trip to the Middle East.
He added that Clinton has not made a decision at this point. “We would expect further meetings with him and discussions among the senior advisors over the next few days, perhaps, until the moment whenever the President decides to decide one way or the other,” he pointed out.
Boucher argued that there are certain factors that Clinton will consider before deciding on a summit. “We all recognize that the decision involves a lot of factors, including whether the President's own intervention would change the dynamic of the discussions,” he said. “It may be that he and his advisors decide that there is some interim step to be done before the summit,” he added
Boucher clarified that the objective of the summit is “to reach final agreement on all the key end-of-conflict issues on all the core issues that need to be dealt with at that level.”
JEWISH PEACE DRIVE
In a related development, a group of American Jewish groups from the Reform movement is launching a drive to support the peace process and to counter what they call “an escalation of efforts on the right wing” to oppose Barak’s government.
The Reform movement, representing the largest number of Jews in the US, is mobilizing staff to educate and organize its members to back the peace process. The movement also has advocacy plans to send a message of support to the US government and “drown out the opposition.”
President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said, “American Jews must show support for the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who would take any peace plan to the Israeli population for a referendum.”
He added, "...The function of the American Jewish community, as we move into this critical and sensitive time in the peace process, is to be supportive of the [Israeli] government and not to try to create obstacles...not only from the Jewish community, but from Congress and elsewhere, that will make it more difficult to arrive at an agreement."
He was referring in part to a letter to Barak, organized by the Zionist Organization of America, in which 30 American Jewish officials endorsed Interior Minister Natan Sharansky's warning against concessions to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat – Albawaba.com
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