saeb erekat 298.88.
(photo credit: AP)
A decision to place core issues at the heart of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - including final borders, right of return for Palestinian refugees, and the status of Jerusalem - on the agenda of a US-sponsored Middle East parley in Annapolis could break up the government, Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday.
"Right now, the nations of the world need to concentrate most on security and economic issues in the Middle East," Lieberman told Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair during a meeting.
According to Lieberman, any future solution to the conflict would be based on Israel and the Palestinian Authority making concessions on territory and residency for various populations.
Blair also met with Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz. Mofaz said that there could be no short cuts in negotiations with the Palestinians.
During their meeting in Jerusalem, Mofaz said: "We cannot go from the end to the beginning," adding that Israel did not need to make long-term pledges and promises. The transportation minister went on to say: "We must not yet deal with the core issues and definitely not with Jerusalem," Israel Radio reported.
Meanwhile, Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said US President George W. Bush should not convene the Mideast peace conference if Israel and the Palestinians have not achieved an agreement in advance.
In an interview with Channel 10, Erekat referred to an Israeli-Palestinian summit convened by then-US president Bill Clinton in July 2000 that broke up without agreement and was followed by the outbreak of violence three months later. Lack of proper preparation for the summit is often blamed.
"Do you think President Bush will do what president Clinton did?" Erekat said. "I really doubt the Americans will issue the invitation if decisions are not made by (Palestinian Authority) President (Mahmoud) Abbas and (Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert."
He said the Israeli-Palestinian agreement before the conference could be "two-three pages." Olmert and Abbas have met six times in recent weeks to discuss the issues. Erekat said they have come to some agreements, but he would not elaborate.
Erekat said overall agreement is near. "I don't think we need negotiations anymore," he said. "Negotiations are over. It's time for decisions. We have never been closer to achieving the end game than we are now."
He said peace is vital for the Palestinians. "I don't want my son to be a suicide bomber," he said.
Erekat dismissed the notion that neither Olmert nor Abbas is strong enough politically to make the concessions necessary for an agreement or get the backing of their people.
"If Mr. Olmert and Mr. Abbas reach the agreement on the end game, they'll be the most important people in this holy land since Jesus walked the streets of Jerusalem," he said. Erekat said a peace accord would be put before the Palestinian people in a referendum.
He discounted the ability of Hamas to sabotage such an accord. He admitted that Fatah was not strong enough to retake Gaza by force after the Hamas takeover in June, but "once you produce an end game agreement, Hamas is down without firing a shot."
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