Sharon Blocks Cease-fire Proposal
- Sharon Blocks Cease-fire Proposal
By GREG MYRE Associated Press Writer
JERUSALEM - Prime Minister Ariel Sharon on Tuesday blocked Israel's
president from making a yearlong cease-fire proposal to the Palestinian
parliament in an unusual public disagreement over what gestures Israel
should make as Mideast violence declines.
Sharon rejected the proposal for President Moshe Katsav to address
Palestinian legislators in the West Bank town of Ramallah, calling it a
public relations ploy by Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, a Sharon aide
said on condition of anonymity. That brought a rare rebuke by Katzav, whose
post is largely ceremonial.
Katsav, a member of Sharon's Likud party, rarely gets involved in the
nitty- gritty of policymaking. The proposed address would have put him in
the political spotlight and comes at a time when Israelis and Palestinians
are both holding internal debates about what sort of moves to make to end
15 months of confrontation.
U.S. envoy Anthony Zinni will return Thursday to push for steps toward
renewing peace talks, said Paul Patin, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in
During a four-day visit, Zinni will ask Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to
dismantle militant groups and will urge Sharon to ease restrictions on the
Palestinians, Patin said. Zinni broke off his first Mideast mission in
mid-December amid a sharp escalation of violence, including a series of
attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinian militants. At the time, U.S.
officials criticized Arafat for not doing enough to prevent such attacks.
Violence has declined considerably since Arafat delivered a Dec. 16 speech
calling for an end to attacks against Israel, and some in the Israeli
government have called for an easing of the restrictions placed on the
Sharon, however, has been reluctant to make conciliatory gestures, arguing
Arafat must do more to end attacks on Israelis.
Katsav was ''disappointed'' by Sharon's veto, Israel radio reported, and
the president's office issued a rare statement challenging Sharon. ''The
presidency regrets the tone of the reaction from the Prime Minister's
office, a tone which is both unseemly and inappropriate,'' it said.
The Israel media cited unidentified officials in Sharon's office as calling
Katsav's proposal ''stupid'' and a ''fool's trap.''
Sharon's office issued a statement saying the prime minister had ''great
respect for the president'' and denying epithets had been used to dismiss
Sharon was able to block Katsav under an informal system that generally
keeps the president from taking any major political initiatives on his own.
The idea of the Katsav speech was first raised by a former Israeli Arab
legislator, Abdel Wahab Darawsheh, who referred to the truce as a
''hudna,'' a term from Arab tribal law describing a specific period of
Darawsheh said the plan had Arafat's backing, and Katsav then indicated he
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who has been attempting to negotiate a truce
with the Palestinians, told Israeli television he had no objection to
Katsav speaking to the Palestinian parliament. But, he cautioned against
attempts to ''to carry out negotiations simultaneously on different programs.''
Peres said that if the next ''two or three days'' remain quiet, he thought
the two sides could begin to implement a formal cease-fire plan outlined
last year by CIA chief George Tenet.
Peres has been holding informal talks with Palestinian Parliament Speaker
Ahmed Qureia on a framework for a possible peace deal.
As a first step toward a treaty, Israel would recognize a Palestinian
state. However, the two sides remain far apart on how much territory the
Palestinians would receive for such a state.
Also Tuesday, Palestinian security officials reported that Israeli tanks
have pulled out of Nablus, one of several Palestinian cities where troops
had taken up positions after a string of Palestinian attacks on Israeli
civilians. However, the Israel military denied that it had pulled back its
In another development, Israeli troops seized four suspected militants in
two incursions into Palestinian territory, according to the army and
Palestinian security sources.