JERUSALEM (Aug. 13)
As U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross extended his shuttle mission here this week, it remained unclear exactly how much he had achieved in his meetings with Israeli and Palestinian officials.
As a result of those meetings, CIA officials will participate in a three-way panel aimed at increasing security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
American officials said the panel reflected an increased U.S. commitment to renewing long-dormant Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
But Palestinians saw the development as a reflection of how far the peace process had deteriorated.
The Palestinians insisted on the American presence in the security meetings “because we wanted a witness among us and a judge, because of the lack of trust between us,” said Palestinian negotiator Nabil Sha’ath.
Ross, who was expected to return to Washington later this week, continued his shuttle mission Wednesday, saying his efforts had “moved things a lot” toward re-establishing Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation.
All such cooperation, along with the negotiations themselves, came to a halt in mid-March, when Israel began building a Jewish neighborhood in Har Homa in southeastern Jerusalem.
Hamas terrorists launched two suicide attacks against Israel after the construction began, bringing the peace process to an all but complete halt.
The latest attack, which killed 14 Israelis July 30 in Jerusalem’s Mahane Yehuda market, prompted Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to demand that the Palestinians crack down on terrorism before the two sides return to negotiations.
He repeated that message Wednesday, when he met with Jordan’s King Hussein in Aqaba.
“The ability to continue the process of negotiations and peace will be seriously impaired if proper action against additional terrorist attacks is not taken,” he said at a news conference after the meeting.
“This is not a political test of strength. It is a question of the lives that are at stake.”
He added that Israel had information regarding plans for additional terror attacks.
Netanyahu repeated his pledge that Israel would ease the sanctions it imposed on the Palestinian Authority after the July 30 attack if the Palestinians took meaningful steps against terrorism.
“What we would like to see is the fulfillment of the commitment to battle the terrorist, and when we see action taken in that direction we will adjust and change our measures accordingly,” Netanyahu said.
Hussein warned that the peace process was currently at a very dangerous point.
“I tell everyone concerned that there is the need for us to ensure that we pass this dangerous stage, and do whatever can be done to prevent further bloodshed and destruction,” Hussein said.
The Jordanian monarch admitted that his talks with Netanyahu had achieved no breakthroughs.
“I did not expect that this meeting would resolve problems in a very dramatic way. I conveyed my concerns and he conveyed his,” Hussein said.
Netanyahu was accompanied to Aqaba by Foreign Minister David Levy and National Infrastructure Minister Ariel Sharon.
Netanyahu later flew back to Jerusalem for a meeting with Ross, who was scheduled to hold yet another session later in the day with Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.