Qureia tells Haaretz: U.S. may be guilty of collusion

Arnon Regular

Haaretz

Tishrei 23, 5765

Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia (Abu Ala) yesterday expressed dismay over remarks by the prime minister's adviser, Dov Weisglass, that the significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process. The remarks by Weisglass - a top aide to Ariel Sharon - were made in an interview with Haaretz that appears in full today; excerpts were published Wednesday.

Abu Ala, said yesterday that Weisglass' remarks oblige Israel to reconsider its policies in the territories, and the U.S. and international community to redefine their demands of Israel if they would like to see a genuine peace process in the Middle East. He refrained from accusing the U.S. of coordinating positions with Sharon but queried whether its policy on disengagement was "innocent."

Q: Mr. Prime Minister, how did you feel when you read the interview with Weisglass?

A: "It was a shock to me. The remarks by Dov Weisglass - I must stress I have not seen the full interview but only the excerpts - are grave and shed new light on the Israeli propaganda according to which there is no Palestinian partner for a peace process. The question to be asked now is, more specifically, whether there is an Israeli partner for peace because it is clear that the Israeli government has applied a policy that is opposed to the peace process and has been undermining the dream of two nations to reach a settlement.

Weisglass is not the man-on-the-street. He is a top Sharon aide and the engineer of the disengagement plan, and he is the one who discussed it with the Americans. The question is whether his remarks reflect things that have already happened or rather plans for the future. Did they plan to open the door to peace [via the plan - A.R.] or to the violence and counter-violence we are now witnessing here? On the other hand, those who are actually implementing the present Israeli policy in the West Bank recently are legitimizing and giving meaning to Weisglass' remarks. In view of the remarks, what is the significance of the building in the settlements that was due to have stopped immediately after the appearance of the road map? What is the significance of building the separation fence?

"All attempts to calm the situation in the territories have ended in assassinations and escalation. The Israeli government has put the average Palestinian in a state of confusion.

I want to stress that no Palestinian will ever accept this Weisglassian logic. The only thing that is acceptable is an honest and just peace based on the road map. If the Americans want to maintain friendly relations with the Palestinians, Weisglass' remarks place an enormous responsibility on them to express their true position without camouflaging or disguising it. This also obliges the Israeli peace camp to organize its ranks and speak up. The Israeli peace camp must take a clear stand.

Q."What is the practical significance of Weisglass' remarks?

A."They put all the legitimation of the peace process in a different light. If indeed they want legitimation for the process, it is necessary now to fix a clear timetable for negotiations and discussions of the issues involved in a final settlement.

Any withdrawal from the Gaza Strip - and now I have doubts whether there is indeed an intention to withdraw - has to be part of the road map in the practical and not the theoretical sense, and has to be connected with what will happen after that. The Quartet and the international community have to define this clearly and the Israeli leadership must define for itself if it is interested in peace or not."

Q:Since the publication of the plan, the U.S. Britain and the international community have claimed that the withdrawal from Gaza will actually give impetus to the peace process, but now it appears the motives may have been different. Do you think the U.S. and Britain were aware of the real Israeli intentions?

A. It is hard for me to attribute innocence to the Americans; they are not like that. They should have received written assurances from the Israeli government about a timetable for applying the road map and the resumption of negotiations with the Palestinians after the withdrawal, in order to really achieve peace. I personally had doubts that the unilateral disengagement from Gaza was part of a more comprehensive process."