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Wednesday, November 26, 2003

AP: Unofficial Mideast Accord "Gains Momentum"

You have to laugh: Actor Richard Dreyfuss will be Master of Ceremonies at signing
An unofficial Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative to be signed the first of next month in Geneva is gaining momentum, with the likelihood that negotiators will take it to Washington, organizers said Wednesday.

"December 1 is not going to be the end, it's going to be the beginning," Ghaith al-Omari of the Palestinian delegation said at a joint news conference with Daniel Levy, representing the Israeli side.

The Swiss-sponsored accord contains many of the same basic elements making up the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan — including a Palestinian state and the removal of most Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

The accord would give the Palestinians a state in 98 percent of the West Bank, all of the Gaza Strip and the Arab-populated areas of Jerusalem, as well as control over the Al Aqsa Mosque compound, Islam's third-holiest site.
[See also "Geneva Accords: Israel to surrender Temple Mount" at Jnewswire].
It would keep most refugees out of Israel, and also could divide part of Jerusalem with a bulletproof glass wall.

Al-Omari said the accord does not conflict with the road map, which is "officially the only game in town."

Organizers said they have been building support within the Palestinian and Israeli communities since their initiative became public Oct. 12 and are ready to step up their campaign both in the Middle East and globally.

A two-hour ceremony for the Dec. 1 signing will include music and the participation of hundreds of Palestinians and Israelis flown in for the event. Actor Richard Dreyfuss will be the master of ceremonies, al-Omari said.

What are we to think?

Israeli President Moshe Katsav, left, smiles while meeting Yossi Beilin,
right, former member of Israel's Parliament (Knesset) and one of the
Oslo agreement architects and former Palestinian Cabinet Minister
Yasser Abed Rabbo, center, in Jerusalem Wednesday Nov. 26 2003.
Katsav hosted the meeting with Palestinian and Israeli designers of
the Geneva initiative, an alternative peace plan sharply criticized by
Israeli officials. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Not mentioned in the caption
JPost: President Moshe Katsav reprimanded the Palestinian signatories to the Geneva Accord on Wednesday for signing the pact with Yossi Beilin instead of negotiating directly with the Israeli government.

Katsav hosted a Palestinian delegation, led by Palestinian Authority Minister of State Kadoura Fares, Planning Minister Nabil Kasis, and former information minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, for more than an hour. The Palestinians were accompanied by Beilin, and MKs Avraham Burg and Haim Oron.

The Geneva signers sought legitimacy from Katsav for their initiative ahead of Monday's signing ceremony in Switzerland. But Katsav refused to support the plan or say anything positive about it, other than saying that he believes it is important for Israelis and Palestinians to engage in dialogue.

"Only the democratically elected Israeli government has the legitimacy to negotiate and conclude a formula for peace," Katsav told the Palestinians. "Your decision to bypass the Israeli government may boomerang. It is a mistake to seek international approval for this initiative before trying to convince the Israeli people."

Katsav told reporters after the meeting that he does not believe that meeting the Geneva signers gives their pact legitimacy, because he made it clear to them that he opposes it.

Beilin responded that he did not ask for Katsav's approval and the mere fact that he hosted a concrete discussion of the plan gave it a boost.
There's lots more bad news, but it'll have to wait. I'm going to bed with Harry Potter :/