Vol. 4 Num 77 Tue. August 12, 2003  

Israel postpones ME peace roadmap implementation

Israeli leaders said they would put the brakes on the US-backed "road map" to peace until Palestinian police disarm violent groups, warning that militants are using a cease-fire to rearm. Palestinians, however, say Israel is the one violating the plan.

At a meeting of the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said that while the Palestinian public was opposed to terror attacks on Israelis and wanted a six-week-old cease-fire to continue, Palestinian security forces were doing little to stop attacks, according to an official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The Palestinian Authority must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure - period," the official quoted Yaalon as saying.

Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said it was Israel, rather than the Palestinians, which was failing to live up to its commitments under the "road map," which calls for Palestinian statehood by 2005.

"In accordance with the road map, what should be dismantled is the Israeli occupation and the Israeli settlements," Erekat told The Associated Press.

The peace plan is a three-stage program. In the first phase the Palestinians are to dismantle "terrorist capabilities and infrastructure (including) confiscation of illegal weapons."

Israel is to commit to "immediately dismantle" about 100 unauthorised settlement outposts established in the West Bank since 2001. It also is to take "all necessary steps to help normalise Palestinian life" and to withdraw "progressively" from Palestinian autonomous zones occupied since fighting between the two sides erupted in September 2000.

About a dozen outposts have so far been taken down, but a similar number have gone back up. Also, some roadblocks have been removed, but dozens remain.

The official said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made it clear during the Cabinet meeting that there can be "no progress toward a Palestinian state without full implementation of their obligations."