Thursday, Dec 04, 2003
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By Atul Aneja
Israel's Vice-Premier, Ehud Olmert, told Israel Radio, "I think he (Gen. Powell) is making a mistake. I think he is not helping the process. I think this is a wrong step by a representative of the American administration.'' U.S. officials have said that Gen. Powell was planning to meet the authors of the peace plan, Yossi Beilin, a former Israeli minister and Abed Rabbo, who was also a member of the Palestinian Cabinet, after his return from a tour of North Africa later this week.
The Geneva Accord was formally unveiled in the Swiss city on Monday. The former U.S. President, Jimmy Carter, said at the ceremony that it was "unlikely that we will ever see a more promising foundation for peace". But the Israeli Government and the main Palestinian armed factions have rejected the plan.
The Palestinian President, Yasser Arafat, and his Prime Minister, Ahmed Qurei, have backed the Geneva initiative in principle but not in details. The initiative has European backing and also verbal support from the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. Aware of the strong emotions that the Geneva initiative has generated, Mr. Beilin said at the ceremony, "we are committing ourselves to fight for peace despite the opposition both of us face. We are saying to the world don't listen to those who say the conflict is unsolvable, don't help us to manage the conflict, help us to end it."
Mr. Rabbo, on his part said, "We cannot wait while the future of our two nations slides deeper into catastrophe."
Observes see the proposed meeting in Washington between Gen. Powell and the authors of the Geneva accord as an expression of American displeasure with the Israeli reluctance to advance the peace "road map" unveiled in June. The Geneva Accord, like the "road map", envisages the creation of an independent state of Palestine co-existing with Israel. But the unofficial peace plan goes far beyond the road map as it identifies in advance, the concrete steps and compromises on thorny issue that both sides might be required to make in order to bring their conflict to an end.
The accord envisions the complete withdrawal of Israel from the Palestinian territories occupied at the end of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war, dismantlement of Jewish settlements in Palestinian lands, the division of Jerusalem into two capitals and Israel's right to decide the number of Palestinians that can return on Israeli territory.
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