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SHARON - THE DAY AFTER

PM Sharon: ‘Unilateral Disengagement Will Continue On Schedule, But Peace Process Can Be renewed If New And Responsible Palestinian Leadership Takes Over From Arafat.’

‘Arafat Will Not Be Buried In Jerusalem as Long As I’m Prime Minister’

Defense Minister Mofaz: ‘War Against Terrorism Must Continue Without Letup’ Foreign Minister Shalom: ‘Israel Must Be Ready To Face New Opportunity’

Cabinet

The Israeli Cabinet has discussed the new situation in light of Yasser Arafat being flown to Paris for urgent medical treatment. At the weekly cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Sharon spoke about the possibility of resuming the Roadmap peace process, if a new Palestinian leadership takes over. On the other hand, the Prime Minister was adamant that Arafat would not be buried in Jerusalem as long as Sharon is in office. Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz and Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom also weighed in on how Israel should deal with a new Palestinian leadership, if Arafat drops out.

:: IsraCast Audio ::

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says if a serious and responsible Palestinian leadership takes over from Yasser Arafat, it will make fresh peace talks possible. On the other hand, Sharon declared that as long as he was Prime Minister, Arafat would not be buried in Jerusalem. David Essing reporting:

Palestinian Leadership

The Israeli cabinet met for the first time since Yasser Arafat was rushed to Paris for urgent medical treatment. Sharon stressed that a new Palestinian leadership would have to keep its commitments in deeds not just words. If so, this would create the opportunity for coordinating steps; a possible reference to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and 4 West Bank settlements. However, Sharon stressed there would be no changes in Israeli policies unless the new Palestinian leaders delivered the goods.He went on to say that Israel was not intervening in the Palestinian leadership crisis, but if the Palestinians wanted to renew the Roadmap peace process they would do well if they selected a leadership with an approach different from Arafat’s.

The Prime minister was adamant about Arafat not being buried in Jerusalem, if he succumbs to his current illness. Sharon declared as long as I’m Prime Minister and I have no intention of giving it up, Arafat will not be buried in Israel’s capital.

Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said the new situation presents complex opportunities and challenges. In his view, a new Palestinian leadership might present prospects that must not be missed. If moderate Palestinian leaders decided to combat terrorism, Israel must reciprocate. Jerusalem should initiate moves with Egypt and Jordan which also had an interest is bolstering stability in the region.

Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, agreed with Prime Minister Sharon that the unilateral withdrawal should be implemented on schedule. But if a new Palestinian pragmatic leadership evolved, it should be involved in the disengagement. As for the war on terrorism, Mofaz opposed any let up in the IDF’s campaign saying it must be waged without letup.

Ambulance

Meanwhile, terrorists in the Gaza Strip are not letting up. On Sunday, they fired more Qassam rockets, this time at Kfar Darom. Moreover, Shabak Security Chief, Avi Dichter, today warned the cabinet, that Palestinian terrorists in Gaza, may have acquired anti-aircraft missiles.In Ramallah, the PLO Executive Committee met for the first time without Arafat…his chair at the head of the table was left empty. Prime Minister Abu Ala and his predecessor Abu Mazen divided up the leadership, for the time being.

Israel Update - Sizing up Israel’s approach, Prime Minister Sharon has the cabinet’s backing for playing it ‘cool’. The outcome from the Palestinian leadership crisis is far from over so ‘it will be business as usual’ as far as Jerusalem is concerned. With Abu Mazen and Abu Ala running the show, and the end of the American election campaign, more and more talk will be heard about reviving the Roadmap peace plan. In the cabinet, Sharon insisted on Palestinian leaders keeping their commitments; the first Palestinian Roadmap commitment is to dismantle the terrorist organizations. Look for Sharon to hold a moderate Palestinian leadership to this obligation, if such a leadership comes out on top.

But some experts say moderate Palestinian leaders will be pulled the other way; they will want to preserve unity by making deals with Hamas and the other terrorists.

David Essing

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