By: Aaron Klein Jewish Press
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Israel and the Palestinians have been conducting behind-the-scene negotiations regarding handing over most of the West Bank to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to top Egyptian and European diplomatic sources who told WND they were directly involved with the talks.
The West Bank borders Jerusalem and is within rocket-firing range of Tel Aviv and Israel’s international airport.
The Egyptian and European sources told WND the negotiations for an Israeli withdrawal were mediated by Egypt and the European Union, with U.S. input. The sources said major changes in Israeli-Palestinian affairs are expected within months.
According to the top diplomatic sources, Israel has agreed in principal to hand over most of the West Bank in a deal with Abbas and is studying the transfer of responsibility in the central and southern West Bank to Abbas’s security forces, which reportedly are receiving aid, weapons and training from the U.S.
They said one proposal being considered for the northern West Bank would see Jordan and the EU supervise the transfer to Abbas’s security forces.
Still being debated is the role of Hamas, which leads the PA and maintains the majority of seats in the Palestinian parliament.
Negotiations between Abbas and Hamas leaders for a national unity government have mostly fallen through.
Earlier this week, Israeli Defense Minister Amir Peretz said he viewed any Palestinian elements recognizing the state of Israel as a partner for negotiations “even if it is Hamas.” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has made similar comments.
‘Saddam Street’ Funded By U.S.
Palestinians in the northern West Bank have named a major street after late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein that was funded â€“ along with the surrounding municipality â€“ by the United States Agency for International Development.
Following Saddam’s hanging earlier this month, thousands of Palestinians gathered in the Yaabid municipality, just outside of the northern West Bank town of Jenin, to hold a vigil in his honor. The town’s leaders named a school and the municipality’s main street after Saddam.
USAID had held a ceremony in July 2005 marking its contributions of $402,000 for paving the Yaabid municipality’s main street â€“ now named after Saddam â€“ as well nearly two miles of inner streets. The American agency also contributed to the reconstruction of the city’s main entrance.
USAID regularly funds reconstruction efforts in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, usually hiring local crews to carry out the construction.
Zacharias Zubeidi, leader of the Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades in Yaabid, told WND that the city changed the name on the U.S.-funded street to show that “Saddam Hussein is still alive.”
“We will honor his memory until the American and Zionist occupation is driven from our land,” Zubeidi said.
Israel Urges Silence on U.S. Weapons to Palestinians
Israeli leaders ae pressuring senior officials in the Israel Defense Forces to put aside reservations regarding U.S. plans to train, finance and arm militias associated with Abbas’s Fatah party.
This column last week quoted a Fatah commander who said that any U.S. aid or weapons received would be utilized to “hit the Zionists.”
The Israeli army officials have petitioned to make their objections public in conversations with American and European diplomats, defense sources said.
“We are being pressured from the (Israeli) political echelon not to interfere with American plans to provide weapons and equipment to Fatah,” said a senior IDF source. “The concerns are that the weapons and equipment will be shared with elements of Fatah that regularly attack Israeli troops and plan attacks against Israeli civilians.”
“We’ve been told this (American aid) is a decision for the prime minister and minister of defense and that our public objections are inappropriate,” the IDF source told WND.
Hamas: ‘Truce’ With Israel A Ruse
Hamas is willing to accept a temporary Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern sections of Jerusalem in exchange for a 10-year truce with Israel, Ismail Haniyeh, prime minister of the Hamas-led Palestinian government, declared this week.
But Hamas officials and spokesmen for the terror group told WND the truce was meant to show some flexibility to the international community. They said Hamas’s goal of destroying Israel had not changed, and that the terror group has a 10-year plan to build a large army to defeat the Jewish state.
Hamad al-Ruqb, a top Hamas spokesman, told WND that Hamas is working to set up a massive army comprised of all Palestinian factions that would train for a period of ten years and then attack.
Abu Abdullah, considered one of the most important operational members of Hamas’s so-called military wing, told WND that preparations for a military confrontation with Israel “are running very well.”
He said other Palestinian factions, including parts of Al Aksa Martyrs Brigades, Fatah’s declared “military wing, are “sharing their knowledge, their technological experience, connections and trainings with us.”
Abu Abdullah confirmed recent reports that members of Hamas and other Palestinian organizations have been receiving training abroad, although he would not list specific locations.
Earlier this month, this column quoted intelligence officials as stating that Hamas members traveled to Iran and Lebanon for advanced military training.
Aaron Klein is Jerusalem bureau chief for WorldNetDaily.com
. He appears throughout the week on leading American radio programs.