Sharon Will Not Engage in Peace Talks, West Bank Raid Kills Two
The Israeli leader said an agreement for a “long-term interim period” could not be worked out until the Palestinian Authority is radically changed and the suicide bombings end.
“There can be no peace with a corrupt terror regime that is rotten and dictatorial,” Sharon said in reference to Yasser Arafat’s Palestinian Authority. “There must be a different authority.”
Once those conditions are met, Sharon said, the two sides could negotiate a plan that would eventually lead to a final peace agreement.
The Palestinians rejected Sharon’s conditions, saying they want to enter peace talks with the goal of reaching a final settlement and the creation of a Palestinian state.
In a poll conducted by the Dahaf Institute and published in the Yediot Ahronot newspaper, 63 percent of Israelis said they would support the creation of a Palestinian state if it was accompanied by a peace agreement.
Also Tuesday, the Israeli military staged four raids into West Bank villages, targeting Palestinians suspected by the Israeli government of orchestrating attacks on Israeli citizens. Two Palestinian intelligence officers were killed in Halhoul, near Hebron, and 14 suspected militants were arrested.
Sharon said such raids will continue, despite last week’s announcement that his forces had completed West Bank sweeps intended to root out militants.
Arafat on Monday toured cities in the West Bank for the first time following five months of political isolation, drawing a mixed response of enthusiastic crowds and criticism of his leadership.
In Nablus, a crowd of 300 greeted him, chanting, “We sacrifice our blood and our soul for Arafat.”
The Palestinian leader paid an hour-long visit to Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, encouraging photographers to take pictures of the damaged building. Walking arm-in-arm with the church’s Christian clergy, Arafat said, “This is part of my life as a Muslim, as a Christian and as a human being. This place will be always and forever inside our hearts, minds and beliefs.”
Arafat drew criticism for canceling a much-anticipated visit to the Jenin refugee camp at the last minute, going to the ravaged camp but leaving without approaching the crowd of 3,000 that awaited him. His aides feared he would receive a hostile reception in the camp, which is a stronghold for Islamic militants.