JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process, already in crisis, has been further hobbled by Israeli charges that senior Palestinian security officials are involved in planning terrorist attacks on Israelis. But at the same time, the United States is working with Israel and the Palestinians to find a way to revive the stalled peace process.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday that he would send a top official to Washington with proposals aimed at renewing the negotiations.
During Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting, the head of the Shin Bet domestic security service, Ami Ayalon, disclosed that according to information obtained by Israel, two senior Palestinian security officers — Brig. Gen. Ghazi al-Jabali and Col. Jihad Masimi — were involved in planning the attacks.
Jabali is the Palestinian police commander in the Gaza Strip.
An Israeli official reportedly said Sunday that Israel had intercepted orders for the attacks that Jabali had sent to Masimi, a senior Palestinian police officer in the West Bank.
Palestinian officials said Masimi and at least three other police officials had been detained for questioning.
Netanyahu told the Cabinet that the allegations, if true, represented the gravest Palestinian violation to date of the self-rule accords.
The United States told the Palestinians last Friday to take the Israeli charges seriously.
Over the weekend, chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said U.S. officials at the highest levels were working on a “package deal” to restart the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Erekat was speaking after talks in Washington with senior administration officials. He gave no further details, but said that any resumption of negotiations required a halt to Jewish settlement activity.
It remained unclear what new proposals Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh would be taking to Washington.
The Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported that the prime minister’s foreign affairs adviser, Uzi Arad, discussed the American initiative during his visit to the United States two weeks ago.
According to the newspaper, the proposal included a postponement of the second further Israeli troop redeployment in the West Bank scheduled for the fall, a move to accelerated permanent status talks, a commitment from the two sides to refrain from taking any unilateral actions and a restoration of full security cooperation.
Although he was dispatching Naveh to Washington, Netanyahu said this week that any progress in the negotiations would be contingent upon the Palestinian Authority taking steps against any Palestinian police involvement in terrorist activities.
The allegations surfaced after Israeli officials arrested three Palestinian police officers last week near the West Bank town of Nablus.
Israel suspected the three of being on their way to carry out a terror attack on the Jewish settlement of Har Bracha, located near Nablus.
The three, who have been questioned by Israeli security forces, have reportedly confessed to opening fire on Jewish settlers and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.
Israeli officials subsequently called on Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat to launch an inquiry into whether Palestinian police are cooperating with Hamas or acting independently to carry out terrorist attacks.
Israeli and Palestinian officials made some progress last week in talks concerning the opening of a Palestinian airport in Gaza, one of the unresolved elements of the Interim Agreement signed in September 1995.
Meanwhile, European Union officials were trying to arrange a meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat at an E.U. meeting in Brussels.
A Palestinian spokesman said Monday that Arafat had decided to fly to Belgium, and Levy said the two would meet.
Meanwhile, opposition leader Ehud Barak met Monday in Amman with Jordan’s King Hussein to discuss the peace process.
Barak later told Labor Party officials that Hussein had expressed concern that the ongoing impasse in Israeli-Palestinian talks would have a detrimental impact on Israeli-Jordanian relations and on Israeli relations in the rest of the region.
Barak added that Hussein was concerned about an outbreak of violence.