US President George W. Bush should not convene his planned Mideast peace conference next month if Israel and the Palestinians have not achieved an agreement in advance, a Palestinian negotiator said Thursday.
The negotiator, Saeb Erekat, was interviewed by Channel 10 TV. He said then-President Bill Clinton convened an Israeli-Palestinian summit in July 2000 that broke up without agreement, and violence erupted 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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