|Al-Ahram Weekly On-line
17 - 23 September 1998
|Published in Cairo by AL-AHRAM established in 1875||Current issue | Previous issue | Site map|
No to bad deals
Speaking to reporters afterwards, Ross said that there remained differences between Israel and the Palestinians, but the US was trying to resolve them.
"I would say at this point that there are still many issues that have to be worked out," Ross said. "I would also say that what I have seen on the part of both parties is that they are actively... trying to work with us and with each other to see if they can overcome the differences, but some are not so easy to overcome."
The US envoy conceded that "clearly we are not where we had hoped to be," but added: "We must go forward."
Ross noted that the Oslo Accords created a new reality of mutual recognition between the Palestinians and Israel and said "that's not something you can turn the clock back on."
Moussa said he hoped that Ross's latest mission would be more successful than previous visits to the Middle East; perhaps "resulting in what may be considered a greater convergence of Palestinian and Israeli views."
After visiting Egypt, Ross went back for a meeting with Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh.
Ross returned to the region on 9 September after a four-month absence and only hours before clashes between Palestinians and Israelis following the assassination of two leading Hamas militants by Israeli forces. The Palestinians claim that the killings were timed to overshadow Ross's mission.
Ross held talks with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in a fresh attempt to bridge the gap between their positions on a US proposal for a second Israeli redeployment in the West Bank. Washington proposed that Israel withdraw from 13 per cent of West Bank territory in exchange for stepped-up Palestinian security measures. The Palestinians accepted the US proposal but Israel presented a counter-initiative for a withdrawal from 10 per cent, while keeping the remaining three per cent under its control as a "nature reserve."
Ross told reporters that the US is now trying "to tie together all the parts of our initiative [because] many parts still have to be resolved."
He termed the peace process a "national priority" for the US and committed his country to "do all we can to try to achieve [peace]." He added that what the US is "most interested" in seeing is a breakthrough that produces "tangible change" on the ground. "We need to see that kind of change," Ross emphasised.
Moussa said Egypt was seeking a balanced settlement based on the principles agreed upon in Madrid and Oslo, adding that a bad agreement could not bring about progress. He rejected accusations that Egypt was advising the Palestinians to stall in negotiations but insisted, in the same breath, that Cairo will not deliver the Palestinians on a "silver platter" to Israel. "It is not Egypt's role to pressure the Palestinians into accepting a poor agreement," the minister said. "In the end, the Palestinian leadership must decide whether to accept or refuse proposals."
Ross agreed, saying that the US "does not ask any party to pressure another. Egypt is the US's partner. When we are trying to reach an agreement, we come to Egypt for consultations."
Commenting on the killing of the two Hamas brothers, Moussa said that a "peaceful and calm atmosphere cannot be a commitment on the part of the Palestinians only. The Israeli side has an obligation in that respect, especially with regard to the ultra-extremist settlers."