Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Peace Process Awaits US Nudge ; R Arafat and Peres Agreed Yesterday to Cooperate on Security and Lift Some Restrictions on Palestinians

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Peace Process Awaits US Nudge ; R Arafat and Peres Agreed Yesterday to Cooperate on Security and Lift Some Restrictions on Palestinians

Article excerpt

Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres have taken a first step, but whether it leads anywhere is up to the United States.

That was the sense after the Palestinian leader and the Israeli foreign minister yesterday decided to restart security cooperation and lift Israeli strictures on Palestinian travel between towns in the occupied territories.

They also agreed during a meeting in the Gaza Strip to implement recommendations by the US-led Mitchell Commission. These stipulate a total effort by the Palestinians to prevent terrorism and Israeli steps culminating in a freeze on building Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another meeting is due to take place in about a week, the leaders decided.

Israeli and Palestinian cease-fires have come and gone, but their confrontation has proven stronger, continuing now for a year. This time, however, a new variable might contribute to a more enduring calm.

The Bush administration's involvement is seen as crucial in pressuring Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to allow further conciliatory steps by his relatively dovish foreign minister and in ensuring that Mr. Arafat meets Israeli security concerns.

"This meeting is a start that could lead somewhere," says Leslie Susser, diplomatic correspondent of the Jerusalem Report magazine. "But that will depend on how much the US and international community is willing to invest in the process .... Things have changed since Sept. 11. I think Sharon realizes the world's patience for the [Middle East] being a source of terrorism is very limited, and Arafat realizes the world has no patience for Palestinian terror. Both of them have had to rethink their strategies."

The session's very convening appears to be a major achievement, given the fact it was twice thwarted by Sharon, who said that the Palestinians had not met his condition that there be 48 hours of complete quiet before a meeting.

Just before the session yesterday, Palestinians set off an explosion at an Israeli outpost in the Gaza Strip, wounding three soldiers, according to the Israeli army. …

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