PA makes pre-summit demands
Ynet has learned that the PA has demanded Israel withdraw from Bethlehem and release senior prisoners as precondition for planned summit between Sharon and Abbas; meeting between PM advisor Weisglass and Palestinian negotiator Erekat characterized as ‘positive,’ but no agreements reached
The Palestinians are demanding Israel withdraw from the West Bank town of Bethlehem and release senior prisoners, as a precondition for the planned summit between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestinian source told Ynet Sunday.
The source said that the Palestinian leadership is determined to attain certain conditions prior to the summit "to justify the existence of the summit to the Palestinians."
The source added that the PA is demanding Israel determine clear criteria to decide the number of prisoners set to be released, their identities and a specific schedule.
Once again the Palestinians are demanding Israel release among others, prisoners who were detained prior to the Oslo accords.
"Also on the ground, the Palestinians are demanding an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank towns - their demand is the withdrawal from Bethlehem with a clear schedule of this move," he said.
"Should no agreement regarding Bethlehem and the prisoner release be achieved, I do not foresee the summit taking place on Tuesday," he added.
"Progress has begun" regarding the issue of the Rafah border crossing and both sides are closer to an agreement that will allow the entry and exit of people through the crossing through joint Palestinian-Egyptian control, the source explained.
Goods will be permitted to leave Gaza through Rafah and will enter the Strip through the Kerem Shalom crossing.
Both sides are closer to an agreement regarding the presence of a third party - possibly European - to supervise the Rafah crossing, the source said.
"The Israelis, who will have the tools to supervise entries and exits, will not be able to intervene independently to prevent the entry or exit of Palestinians suspected of security offenses without doing so through specific communication with the third party," he said.
No problems resolved during latest meeting
Special advisor to the prime minister Dov Weisglass and chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat met earlier Sunday for a second session in a series of preparatory meetings ahead of the summit.
The meeting between Weisglass and Erekat was "positive and practical," but disagreements between both sides were not resolved, Palestinian sources reported following the meeting.
"At this particular moment, the summit between Sharon and Abu Mazen (Abbas) will probably not be held on Tuesday," one source told Ynet.
Earlier Sunday, Sharon told the cabinet he is not certain his meeting with Abbas will in fact take place on Tuesday.
According to the Palestinians, Weisglass and Erekat discussed the need to implement the Road Map principles and agreements reached at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February.
One Palestinian source said the large-scale disagreements between the two sides are still unresolved, even though the two figures have already met on two occasions.
He added that Abbas is adamant about holding a sincere meeting with Sharon and not one for the sake of cameras and public relations.
"The Palestinians must see and feel a real change in all issues," the source said.
"However, at present there is no news regarding the issues discussed, which included an Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian towns, the release of prisoners, a solution for Palestinians expelled from the country and the continued construction of the security fence," he said.
The two agreed to hold a third meeting on Monday.
Symbolic summit only?
However, according to the source, it seems that Monday's meeting will not bring about a pre-summit breakthrough.
"Even if the summit will be held due to international pressures, it will be symbolic and aimed at marking an end to a period of stagnation, whereby the two leaders will return to dialogue," he said. "However, I doubt it will satisfy the Palestinians."
He added that in light of upcoming PA elections, the Palestinian leadership is obligated to bring the public a list of achievements following Abbas' meeting with Sharon.
"There won't be a summit, definitely not a successful summit,” he said. "If the public will not feel that the Palestinian leadership has managed to advance the issues – those affecting them on a daily basis like the reopening of the Rafah border crossing, a reduction in the number of checkpoints, as well as the larger issues like the release of prisoners and an Israeli withdrawal from (Palestinian) towns - it seems things will continue in the same direction."
Meanwhile, sources in the Prime Minister's Office said that "Israel has presented the Palestinians with several offers regarding issues on the agenda and it will continue discussing them tomorrow."