Photo: Zoom 77
Rajoub expects return of refugees from Lebanon
Photo: Zoom 77

Rajoub: U.S. says Gaza exit a first step

Palestinian national security advisor says Americans pledged to continue road map implementation, adds he hopes for political, economic assistance from Arab states

Is Gaza just the beginning? The Palestinian Authority received American clarifications that the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip would constitute a part of the road map initiative, PA National Security Advisor Jibril Rajoub says.



The American reassurances came in the face of Palestinian fears that the pullout would not be followed by more withdrawals.


In an interview with the London-based al-Sharq al-Awsat, Rajoub said the Palestinian Authority’s top priority at this time lies with bringing refugees residing in Lebanon to Gaza.


Earlier, the al-Hayat newspaper reported the possibility that several thousand armed Palestinians would be transferred from Lebanese refugee camps to the Gaza Strip, thus providing the PA with added muscle considered “neutral” and not associated with any Gaza clan or faction.


“The Palestinians in Lebanon are the top priority of the Palestinian leadership because they suffer from particularly difficult conditions,” Rajoub said. “We told the Lebanese there was no reason for concern regarding the settlement of refugees and that the presence of the Palestinians in Lebanon contributes to stability in the country. We are now expecting their return to the homeland.”


When asked whether these Palestinians would return to Gaza, Rajoub said, "We will bless their return, in our homes and hearts."


He said Israel will no longer have any connection to the land following its withdrawal.


"The problem is the absorption of Palestinians in Lebanon, totaling 400, 000," he said. "The most important thing is to lessen their suffering."


Calming messages from the U.S.


According to Rajoub, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and "his right-wing government" are acting to enable the upcoming evacuation to be the first and the last one.


"However, the international community and the United States are convinced that the source of authority is within international law, expressed through the road map plan," he said. "We received calming messages from the U.S. during the American-Palestinian summit, as well as during Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's visit to the region." 


Condoleezza Rice explained during her last visit to the region that Gaza would not become a large prison, Rajoub said, adding that Rice told the Palestinians geographic continuity would eventually exist between the West Bank and Gaza.


"She added that the settlements and security fence threaten aspects included in a future peace plan, and this in my opinion is a positive sign," Rajoub said. "What is necessary at present is a large-scale Arab effort to provide a safety net and protection for the end of the Israeli occupation according to the road map plan."


The Palestinians need an "Arab politic and economic stance" that would support the Saudi Arabian initiative and U.S.-backed road map plan to ensure Israel's withdrawal is carried out according to regional and international law , Rajoub told the newspaper.


"We hope this assistance will begin today as we are in deep distress in every aspect," he said. "The demand to build a state requires a basic foundation that includes the minimal necessities for the Palestinian nation in order to live in safety."


"We believe Arab leadership is ready for assistance and proof is demonstrated in Emirate ruler Sheikh Khalifa Ben Zaid's initiative to build a Palestinian community - it is an huge message," he said.


פרסום ראשון: 08.15.05, 14:49
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