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Friday, November 2, 2007

Remember the Middle East Roadmap? It may not be dead after all

Does this Palestinian government mean what it says about peace? This report from Haaretz suggests that it is so, but words are cheap. Incitement continues and IDF still catches would-be suicide bombers on a regular basis.
Israeli officials deny tripartite team to begin work on roadmap
By Avi Issacharoff, Haaretz Correspondent
Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayad says a Palestinian-American-Israeli commission on implementing the first stage of the road map peace plan will soon begin work, but Israeli officials deny the report.
According to Fayad Thursday, the commission will consist of himself, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and U.S. security coordinator Keith Dayton. 
Israeli officials, however, said that while the creation of such a commission was discussed during last week's visit by U.S. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, neither its composition nor its powers have been finalized.
Israel would apparently prefer the commission not to have the power to make binding decisions on who should do what first.
The Palestinian Authority claims that it has already fulfilled all its first-stage responsibilities, whereas Israel has not fulfilled its obligation to freeze settlement construction and dismantle illegal outposts. Israel, however, says that the PA is far from fulfilling its first-stage counterterrorism responsibilities.
Fayad also said that his government is willing to operate the Gaza Strip border crossings if Israel reopens them.
The crossings have been closed since Hamas seized control of the strip because Israel does not trust Hamas to run them.
Fayad confirmed Thursday that he will be working with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and United States Mideast security coordinator Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton to carry out the first phase of the dormant road map plan for peace.
The U.S.-backed road map plan was launched in 2003 and envisioned the establishment of a Palestinian state by 2005. It consists of three phases, which entail obligations that each side must meet.
In the first phase, Palestinians were to declare an end to all violence and take action against militants, in return for which Israel would freeze settlement expansion, dismantle dozens of illegal settlement outposts and lift roadblocks to facilitate Palestinians' travel to administrative centers.
The Palestinians have argued that they have made significant progress in recent weeks by disarming dozens of militants, either voluntarily or by force, but say Israel has done little so far.
Fayad said Thursday that the three have not started working yet, but said implementing the first phase of the road map will be key to the success of the U.S.-hosted Mideast conference in Annapolis, Maryland, in November or December.
"If we want the Annapolis conference to be a successful one, and if we want the peace process to get back on track, we have to implement the first phase of the road map, and it is possible to implement it," he said.
The IDF has been preparing a list of Israel's essential security needs in advance of the conference as it did last time significant talks were held on the final status agreement. However, ahead of Annapolis the IDF will only list Israel's concerns, without dealing with the specific details of borders and territories, as was done in the past.

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