Photo: Reuters
PM Ariel Sharon
Photo: Reuters
Photo: Knesset Channel
Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz
Photo: Knesset Channel

Sharon: Ball in Palestinian court

Prime minister says resumption of peace process hinges on Palestinian performance in Gaza; Hamas participation in elections a threat, he says. Defense Minister Mofaz says Israel set heavy price tag for rocket attacks

Evoking his August appearance at the United Nations world summit in New York before the Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said that he told world leaders that the resumption of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians hinges on the Palestinian Authority’s success in Gaza.


“The message we conveyed during our meetings (in New York) was that we need to focus on Gaza in order to ensure that the pre-disengagement process is successful,” Sharon told his ministers.


“We warned that fulfilling the expectations in the fields of security, law enforcement and economy will have positive repercussions for the Palestinians and shed light on the PA’s real intensions,” the prime minister added.


Meanwhile, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said that although the IDF’s operation in the Gaza Strip resonated through the Palestinian system, “it has yet to lead to a full-blown change” in the Palestinian Authority.


High price tag


Still, the high price tag exacted by Israel made it clear to Hamas that the rules of the game in Gaza have changed and made it more difficult for the terror group to continue rocket attacks in the near future, the defense minister said.


“The significance of our operation is also harm to the (Hamas) image on the Palestinian street,” he said. “For a long time now, Hamas has been resorting to ‘doublespeak.’ On the one hand the organization is interested in calm in order to gain legitimacy for parliamentary elections, but on the other hand its extensive terror activity continues all the time.”


Turning his attention to the abduction and murder of Israeli citizen Sasson Nuriel by Hamas, Mofaz said: “The investigation and pursuit of the murderers continues. The State of Israel will settle the score with those responsible for and involved in the murder.”


‘Hamas participation in elections a threat’


Sharon said that Israel will reach out to all parties wanting to ensure the process in Gaza is successful. “The responsibility for what happens in Gaza has been passed on from Israel to the Palestinians. They have to prove themselves capable to succeed in Gaza,” Sharon said.


Speaking of Hamas, Sharon said that Israel views the participation of the terror group in the January Palestinian elections as a threat, so long it has not disarmed and has not ditched its pledge to destroy the Jewish State.


“We warned that Israel views the participation of Hamas in the elections under the current conditions as a threat. This reality contradicts the Road Map (plan for peace) and our understandings with the Palestinians. We said that Hamas can participate in the elections only if it renounces violence, disarms and retracts its pledge to destroy the State of Israel,” the prime minister said.


“We made it clear that, although the elections are an internal Palestinian affair in which Israel cannot interfere, the participation of Hamas will determine the nature of Israel’s cooperation with the PA during these elections, and will not allow us to extend our hand as we did during the elections for the PA chairmanship,” Sharon said.


'We intend to cooperate with international community'


The prime minister noted that the U.S.-backed Road Map plan for peace is the only framework within which negotiations with the Palestinians may be resumed.


Sharon reminded his ministers of the success of his participation in the U.N.’s world summit last month saying, “Those who shook my hand expressed their impressions at the implementation (of the Gaza pullout). This time images of the past of representatives leaving the assembly en masse while Israel’s representative is on the podium did not pop up.”


According to Sharon Israel’s firm stance on the issue of Hamas’ participation in the elections is a positive move since it catapulted the problem to the top of the internal community’s agenda.


“We intend to cooperate with the international community on the issue. I wish to express my appreciations to the U.S. position on the issue as confirmed by the words of the secretary of state over the weekend.”


The prime minister confirmed that he discussed the issue of Jonathan Pollard with U.S. President George W. Bush. “That’s another issue that came up during talks with the president and contacts regarding the issue will carry on,” Sharon said.


פרסום ראשון: 10.02.05, 12:13
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