Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas is due to arrive in Washington Wednesday, where top American officials are expected to press him to curb terror attacks and disarm Palestinian terror groups.
On Thursday, Abbas is scheduled to meet with President George W. Bush in the White House.
On the eve of that meeting, Palestinian representatives are attempting to appease the Americans in a bid to modify the session’s agenda and focus the talks on Palestinian demands, namely an end to Israeli settlement expansion, the removal of army roadblocks in the West Bank, and an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Kidwa charged Wednesday that Israel was attempting to undermine Abbas’ visit by attempting to force its own agenda on the meeting.
“The Israeli side is attempting to undermine Palestinian-American relations,” he said. “The Israelis are trying to influence the meeting’s schedule and demand it be based on what Israel defines as the war on terrorism and dismantlement of Palestinian organizations, without Israel having to adopt measures that would assist in boosting the Palestinian Authority.”
Abbas to ask for American aid
According to al-Kidwa, Abbas will ask Bush to act for the implementation of the Road Map peace initiative and guarantee the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state in accordance with the doctrine presented by the president in the past.
Abbas will demand that Bush “end Israeli aggression against the Palestinians and act to resolve controversial issues,” al-Kidwa said, and expressed his hope that the U.S. Administration would exercise its influence on Israel “to stop its unilateral moves, headed by settlement expansion, the continued construction of the West Bank security fence, and the boosting of Jerusalem’s Jewish population.”
Al-Kidwa said the Palestinians will also ask for American aid to help the Gaza Strip’s economic recovery in the wake of the disengagement.
Meanwhile, the Palestinians are concerned that the question of Hamas participation in the upcoming elections and need to disarm terror groups would become the focus of the Bush-Abbas meeting. The Palestinians will make it clear to the U.S. that “without trust-building steps on the part of Israel that would prove to the Palestinian street there’s a change…it would be difficult to adopt measures that could raise tensions among the Palestinian public.”
'PA can do more'
The Palestinian leadership should undertake a more serious counter-terror effort, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said earlier.
"There is more that the Palestinian leadership can do to end violence and dismantle terrorist organizations. It is more important that the Palestinian leadership continue to take steps to put in place law and order in Gaza," McClellan said.
The spokesman lauded PM Sharon for pulling Israel out of Gaza and said the Palestinian leadership was now presented with an opportunity to build the required institutions for the establishment of a democratic country.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported that the U.S. government has been pressing the Palestinians in recent days to prevent radical candidates for running for office in the general elections scheduled for January.
Yitzhak Benhorin contributed to the story