WASHINGTON – Top political adviser and former senior presidential aide Dennis Ross called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Saturday to formulate a way for the Palestinian economy to integrate in Area C of the West Bank in a manner that would help the PA's status without compromising Israel's security.
Area C of the West Bank is under Israel's full civil and security control.
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According to his article in the Washington Post, Ross believes that such a move would improve the Palestinian economy and may even prevent Hamas from winning the Palestinian elections, expected to be held later in 2012.
Ross (L) and Barak (Photo: Ariel Harmoni, Defense Ministry)
Ross said that Netanyahu – who repeatedly states that he has no desire to rule the Palestinian people – must understand that the stronger the PA's economic basis is, the better the chances of the peace process are. Such steps, he added, would signal to the Palestinians that independence is within reach and that the political approach advocated by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, which differs from Hamas' terror, is viable.
Ross, who was an instrumental figure in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process for the past 20 years, added that despite the meetings between top Israeli and Palestinian official in Jordan this week, he had "no illusions" about a possible breakthrough in the negotiations in the near future, over what he called "psychological differences" between the parties.
He added that the steps he was suggesting should not be at the expense of direct negotiations, but if Israel hopes to keep Hamas from taking over the West Bank, it must strive to change the situation on the ground, so to lend credibility to Abbas and Fayyad's claims that violence will not benefit the Palestinian cause.
"In Area C, which is about 60% of the West Bank, Palestinians’ security and police forces have no access, their economic activity is extremely limited, and Israel retains civil and security responsibilities. There is no practical reason that the Palestinians cannot be permitted dramatically more economic access and activity in this area," Ross wrote.
In Area B, "Which is about 22% of the West Bank, Palestinian police maintain law and order but are not permitted to deal with terrorist threats," he added. "Israel could allow their presence to grow," he added.
"From my discussions with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, I know that he is open to increasing the number of Palestinian police stations and broadening the areas where Palestinian security personnel operate. Now would be a good time to take these steps, as any such expansion would certainly be noticed, and welcomed, by the Palestinian public.”
Moreover, it would counteract Hamas' seeming political success, noted following the release of 1,027 Palestinian prisoners in the Shalit deal, which more than anything, Ross said, portrayed Abbas and Fayyad and “unable to deliver.”
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