Abbas targets past accord

Posted in Israel / Palestine | 07-Oct-05 | Author: Steven Erlanger| Source: International Herald Tribune

Palestinian leader Mahmud Abbas gestures during a press conference in Gaza City.
JERUSALEM The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said Thursday that when he finally meets the Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, for their third summit meeting, his most important demand will be that Israel implement the measures agreed upon at their first summit meeting in February.

But Abbas also cast doubt on when the two would meet, telling reporters in Gaza City that "the date has not yet been decided," despite remarks by the Jordanian leader, King Abdullah II, Israeli and even Palestinian officials that the meeting will take place Tuesday, probably in Jerusalem.

Abbas's remarks raised questions about the level of preparation, even as Israeli officials suggested that the meeting was merely a gesture to Washington before Abbas travels to the United States to meet President George W. Bush later this month.

Abbas is facing increasing dissent from Palestinians fed up with the corruption and anarchy of ordinary life, especially in Gaza, where policemen Monday invaded a legislative session to demand arms and support in confrontations with the radical Islamic group Hamas. The legislators then voted no confidence in his prime minister, Ahmed Qurei, and demanded the formation of an interim government before legislative elections scheduled for Jan. 25.

Israel is pressing Abbas to tame Hamas and disarm it before those elections, in which Hamas will run for the first time. Washington is pressing him to at least confront Hamas, if not disarm it. But Abbas says he wants to coopt Hamas, not start a civil war.

In their summit meeting, postponed from Oct. 2 and the first since June, Sharon is bound to push Abbas to do more to disarm militants. Abbas said Thursday that he would press Sharon on "the implementation of the Sharm el-Sheik understanding, in addition to issues related to halting settlements and the separation barrier and the Judaization of Jerusalem."

At their first meeting in Sharm el-Sheik, Israel agreed to hand over security control to the Palestinians in five large West Bank towns and pulled out of Jericho and Tulkarm, but after Palestinians organized attacks from Tulkarm, the Israeli Army moved back. The army has also returned to a policy of targeted killings and arrests of suspected militants; Israel says that Abbas has done little to confront terrorism and so Israel had no other choice.