Da Ha'aretz del 26/05/2005
Originale su http://www.haaretzdaily.com/hasen/spages/580489.html

Abbas to ask Bush to fulfill vision of two-state solution

di Aluf Benn, Nathan Guttman, Arnon Regular

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday he will ask U.S. President George W. Bush at their White House meeting later in the day to fulfill his vision of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state living next to Israel in peace and security.

He told reporters ahead of his White House meeting that his vision for ending the conflict with Israel rests on the establishment of a sovereign, democratic state in the West Bank, Arab East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

He said the Palestinians were prepared to make the painful sacrifices necessary to ensure it materializes.

"We are committed to negotiations as the only means to achieve this vision of a two-state solution," said Abbas. "What is needed from the United States is a clear political position on fulfilling this vision."

Abbas arrived in Washington on Wednesday morning for his first visit since he replaced Yasser Arafat in early February. He dined Wednesday night with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who had met briefly with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's advisers Dov Weissglas and Shalom Turjiman, and Ambassador Danny Ayalon earlier in the day.

Abbas also met with Vice President Richard Cheney on Wednesday night, and was to hold talks with American Jewish leaders known to favor the peace process at his hotel Thursday, before going to the White House. This is not his first visit to the White House - he was there as prime minister under Arafat - but it will be his first as chairman.

Abbas said he was reassured on Wednesday by Rice and Cheney that the United States was committed to the implementation of the road map and would help advance peace moves.

He said members of Congress told him Wednesday they had "no objection" to channeling financial aid directly to the Palestinian Authority instead of sending it through third parties since they were satisfied with the degree of transparency and reform efforts of Abbas' government.

In an opinion piece published in the Wall Street Journal on Thursday, Abbas expressed concern that Bush's two-state vision was being undermined by Israeli unilateral steps.

"Israel's ongoing settlement construction in the West Bank, it's insidious Wall, which, since not built on the 1967 border, is suffocating Palestinian cities and towns," Abbas wrote.

"It's [Israel's] illegal attempts to cut off East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, if allowed to continue, render a two-state solution to our conflict an impossibility," he added.

For the next few months, the world's attention would focus on Israel's planned unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, he said, and pointed out that the Palestinians did not see this move as a gesture of peace.

"Rather, it diverts attention away from Israel's settlement expansion of the West Bank ... and Palestinians fear the Gaza Strip will become a large prison," he wrote.

Israel's mid-August disengagement plan includes the evacuation of all 21 settlements in Gaza Strip and four out of 120 in the West Bank. Under pressure from Washington, the Palestinians have agreed to coordinate the pullout with Israel to ensure a smooth, peaceable evacuation.

Abbas said the Israelis and Palestinians now have a window of opportunity to end the conflict.

"I am ready immediately to sit down with Prime Minister Sharon and start permanent peace negotiations," Abbas said.

"If President Bush is still convinced and committed to his original vision, as I hope he will be, and if Prime Minister Sharon impressed to abandon a unilateral solution, we can together make 2005 a year of peace in the Middle East," he said.

The Bush administration will not be demanding that the Palestinian Authority disarm armed groups in the territories, including Hamas, at least until after the Palestinian legislative elections later this year.

The president may even try to bypass Congress and announce tens of millions of dollars in direct aid to the Authority during Abbas' meeting with Bush.

According to sources in Abbas' entourage, an understanding has been reached that the U.S. will make do with a Palestinian commitment to take action against arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip and West Bank.

Bush is also expected to praise Abbas' reform efforts, both in the security and civilian realms, but the prevailing view among both Palestinian and Israeli officials is that the president will not give Abbas written guarantees of American support on issues of importance as Sharon received.

On arrival, Abbas said, "We expect a clear political stance from the U.S. on the implementation of the road map and economic support, and we hope to get it."

Abbas is slated to raise the issue of settlement expansion and Israeli land expropriations for the separation fence, particularly in the Jerusalem area and to present maps showing the details of Israeli control.

"He'll get public embraces, and the Americans will reiterate all their previous statements that favor the Palestinians," an Israeli official said Wednesday night, mentioning a declaration about the link between disengagement and the road map, a promise for Palestinian territorial contiguity in the West bank, and maybe a mention about "the need to end the occupation that began in 1967."

The Israeli message to the Americans as delivered by Weissglas, Turjiman and Ayalon in their meeting with Rice, is that Abbas is weak and unable to act against the terrorist organizations, which have turned into a "parallel authority" in the territories.

Rice made clear at the meeting that the U.S. would stick to its support for Abbas, asked Israel to continue humanitarian gestures toward the Palestinians and emphasized the need for the two sides to coordinate the disengagement and for Israel to fulfill its commitments made at Sharm el-Sheikh.

Weissglas said that the hand-over of the towns is being delayed because the Palestinians are not fulfilling their side of the deal regarding the wanted men and said that the Palestinians are dragging their feet over coordination of the disengagement.

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