Both sides criticise new US peace plan for Middle East
By Mark Lavie
[Associated Press, Jerusalem - 24 October 2002]
A new Middle East peace plan launched by a senior American envoy yesterday has been criticised by both the Israelis and Palestinians.
William Burns, the Assistant Secretary of State, was due to hold talks in Israelabout the three-stage plan, containing a blueprint for Palestinian statehood by 2005.
Both sides said the plan, which also has the backing of the United Nations, Russia and the European Union, is too vague on crucial points. The plan has not been made public, though officials have revealed some details.
Israel said it would be required to withdraw troops from parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the first stage, without guarantees that the Palestinian security forces would do more to prevent attacks on Israelis.
"The test of performance is being applied to Israel, but not to the other side," said Raanan Gissin, an adviser to the Israeli Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon.
A Palestinian cabinet minister, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians needed stronger guarantees from the US regarding the timetable and implementation, including international monitors.
The Palestinian planning minister, Nabil Shaath, said the first phase, from next month to April 2003, would include a truce, cessation of violence and an Israeli pullback to positions held before the intifada erupted two years ago.
The second phase would be the creation of a Palestinian state with temporary borders.
Mr Gissin said Israel would make no concessions to the Palestinians until all violence stopped, but if it did, "it will be possible to accept" a provisional Palestinian state.
In the final phase, Mr Shaath said, the sides would negotiate a peace treaty covering the tough issues including permanent borders, Jewish settlements and control of Jerusalem. The goal would be an agreement in 2005, resulting in a fully fledged Palestinian state.
Yesterday Israeli troops demolished the homes of two Palestinians involved in shooting attacks on Israelis. One house was razed in the Al Ain refugee camp in the West Bank, and the second in the Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. In Rafah, 20 bystanders, including four children, were hurt when the house was blown up, doctors said.