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December 27, 2002

Arafat/Sharon dialogue - could it be?

Debka reports that such a dialogue is proceeding with a chance of success depending on outcome of Iraqi War. The details sound like a wish list for Israel.

What is the Israeli prime minister offering? DEBKAfile’s sources reveal some highlights of the still ongoing dialogue.

1. A Palestinian state consisting of West Bank Areas A and B. Israel would keep as sovereign territory Areas C plus around 10 percent of the land as well as the Jordan Rift Valley. The Palestinian state would thus rise on little more than 50 percent of the West Bank, leaving Israel just short of half.

2. Israel would likewise retain control of the main latitudinal highways running through the West Bank from the Israeli border in the West to the Jordan River in the East.

3. All the West Bank settlements, like the Jewish communities along these routes, such as Yitzhar and Tapuach, will remain in place under Israeli sovereignty.

3. A second road network would be tunneled underground at right angles to the first, providing territorial continuity between Palestinian locations under full Palestinian authority

4. This peace settlement would be implemented over 10 years. It would be contingent on the Palestinians calling off in the first stage all terrorist activity against Israel, disbanding the militias engaged in terror - including the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the Hamas and the Jihad Islami and expunging all forms of anti-Israel agitation and incitement from Palestinian education programs and mass media.

5. Jerusalem is not under discussion. As far as Sharon is concerned Jerusalem’s fate is non-negotiable and the city will continue to be the undivided capital of Israel.

Bush and Sharon both seem to believe that this secret interchange can end positively, encouraged mainly by the fact that Arafat has not vetoed the Israeli proposals out of hand and has in fact sent Abu Mazen back with some of his own. They are:

1. The Palestinians must have 65 percent of the West Bank.

2. The West Bank’s lateral routes must also come under Palestinian sovereignty, but may be leased out to Israel for 25 years together with the roadside settlements.

3. The transitional period must be cut down from ten to two years.

4. Like Sharon, Arafat has not raised the Jerusalem issue. Abu Mazen is working on a compromise formula for transferring Temple Mount and some of Jerusalem’s Arab districts to Jordanian control. A joint Palestinian-Jordanian authority would be set up as a formality.
It must be Christmas. Even Ha'aretz is reporting on it.
"A Palestinian state is not my life's dream, but it's the only realistic way of achieving peace," he told Nissim Mishal. Okay, when he sits down for private talks to soften up his ministers, he'll say he was talking about a plan in stages, and it's not tomorrow, and it won't apply to all the territories, and so on and so forth. A certain amount of charlatanism, as the old saying goes, is essential for effective government.

But just hearing those words about a state for the Palestinians coming out of Sharon's mouth is nothing short of electrifying. His associates says it's not a campaign slogan, but a plan that he and the Bush administration have been cooking up for a long time - for the day after the war on Iraq.
But, hold on. Abu Mazen denies everything.