Palestine Media Center- (PMC)
Washington said the stalled Middle
East peace process has “reached a hopeful moment,” and that the so-called
“roadmap” to peace “is not open to negotiation,” but again without
committing itself to timetables or implementation mechanisms, which kept
Palestinians skeptical that such statements are merely “pain-relieving”
President George W. Bush’s national security
adviser, Condoleezza Rice, said Monday its “roadmap” for setting up a
Palestinian state by the end of 2005 “is not open to negotiation” and that
Israel must “play its part” to pave the way.
In a speech to the
strongest pro-Israel lobby group in the USA, AIPAC, Rice also called on
all Arab governments to recognize Israel’s right to exist and said
democratic reforms within the Palestine National Authority (PNA) were
The blueprint, prepared jointly with the
European Union, the United Nations and Russia, is designed to reopen
negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians once Mahmoud Abbas is
confirmed as the Palestinian prime minister.
Rice’s call for a
quick start, without attempts by either side to revise the terms of the
“roadmap,” follows complaints by European and Arab governments that
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon would try to arrange more favorable
They voiced their objections after Bush had said “we will
expect and welcome contributions from Israel and the Palestinians to this
Secretary of State Colin Powell, and now Rice, in
responding to questions at the 44th annual policy meeting of the American
Israel Public Affairs Committee, tried to discourage delay.
who had asked that her remarks to thousands of members of the pro-Israel
lobby be off-the-record to the news media, said of Israel and the
Palestinians “we expect their comments; it is not a matter of
“It can be commented on by the parties,” Rice
Rice said the US would present formally the international
“roadmap” for an Israeli-Palestinian settlement once the new Palestinian
PM, Mahmoud Abbas, was confirmed in office with his cabinet.
envisages two states, democratic Israel and democratic Palestine, living
side by side in peace.
Rice set out what she called the “ambitious
agenda” of the US to bring about change in the Middle East, including a
settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
She called on
Palestinians to end what she termed “violence” against Israel, but she
also noted that Israel “must end settlement activities” while progress was
being made towards peace.
Earlier, Powell was optimistic.
“Today we have reached a hopeful moment, when progress may again
be possible,” he said late Sunday in Washington.
But he warned that
the administration of President Bush would be watching “very carefully”
how Abbas exercises his authority, “which is so important for Palestinian
hopes for better future.”
Powell reiterated the promise by
Washington and London to unveil the “roadmap” for peace as soon as Abbas
and his cabinet are confirmed.
Moreover, Powell renewed his call
for an end to expansion by Israeli settlers in the occupied Palestinian
“Settlement activity by Israel is inconsistent with
President Bush's two-state vision,” he said.
coalition includes two staunch pro-settlement parties, while many in his
own Likud party also back them.
However, America’s non-commitment
to a date for the publication of the “roadmap” and to timetables for its
implementation led Palestinian chief negotiator and cabinet minister Sa’eb
Erekat to slam the repeated delay.
“It seems the delay in the peace
process is in marked contrast to the immediate and final decision for a
war on Iraq. The decision for war was not delayed, but the decision for
peace has been delayed six times in four months,” he said.
said on Saturday that President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony
Blair’s statements concerning the presentation of the US “roadmap” peace
plan are just “pain relieving.”
Meanwhile, former US Secretary of
State James Baker said Sunday that the “roadmap” should be implemented
without conditions and urged Washington to call a meeting for the parties
to discuss it.
He also said the US-led war on Iraq would give
President Bush “a wonderful opportunity to build a legacy for
himself...that is to create a stable situation in the Middle East and
resolve the ongoing dispute between Arabs and Israelis.”
to say, 'This is the way to peace, here it is, ‘put it on the table, and
then call a meeting of the parties,” he told ABC
However, Powell sounded as if he was adopting an
Israel, which has suggested more than 100 changes
to the “roadmap”, refused to pass judgment on Abbas until he had proven
his mettle by ending bloody attacks in Israel.
Silvan Shalom saw the move as a “positive step but on the other hand we
have top see actions on the ground,” said ministry spokesman David
Shalom said Monday that the new Palestinian prime minister
must take drastic measures against so-called radical groups in his first
two months in office.
If Abbas does not take “the right measures
against terror when he comes to office in his first or second months, he
won't be able to do it after it,” Shalom said after a meeting with US
Secretary of State Colin Powell.
“I think it will be very important
for him and for the future of the region that he will take those measures
against the Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and other terrorist organizations
while he come to office,” he added.
Shalom said that Israel has
nonetheless agreed it would be “a positive step in the right direction” if
Abbas takes the job.