- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 13, 2001

JERUSALEM — CIA chief George Tenet won support from both Israelis and Palestinians yesterday for Washingtons multiphase cease-fire plan.
Palestinian officials announced acceptance of the proposal at the end of Mr. Tenets make-or-break meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the West Bank town of Ramallah, hours after Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Israel agreed to the deal.
The agreement marked the most serious effort in at least six months to steer the two sides away from violence and back to the bargaining table.
While several previous cease-fires have collapsed, the latest one is coupled with specific political measures and incentives spelled out in a report issued last month by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell — including an Israeli freeze of settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
"We have accepted the American document. Implementation will begin tomorrow," Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters after Mr. Tenets talks with Mr. Arafat.
"There will be a trilateral security meeting as well as a bilateral political meeting with the Americans," he said.
Both sides had voiced reservations about aspects of the plan, which has not been made public. Mr. Tenet, on his sixth day of mediation in the region, threatened to leave late yesterday if the Palestinians failed to accept the proposal unconditionally.
According to Israeli and Palestinian media reports, Mr. Tenets plan requires Israel to pull its troops back to positions they held before the fighting erupted last September and lift a siege the Jewish state has been imposing on the West Bank and Gaza.
In return, Palestinians are to enforce a cessation of violence, resume security cooperation with Israel, arrest guerrillas from the militant Hamas and Islamic Jihad groups and collect illegal weapons.
After a six-week "cooling off" period, the two sides would begin implementing confidence-building measures outlined in the Mitchell report, including an Israeli settlement freeze and a resumption of peace negotiations.
In Washington, a State Department official said the timetable would go into effect immediately.
"The United States is pleased that a work plan has been accepted by both sides. Its purpose is to resume security cooperation, end the violence and restore the situation on the ground that existed before September 28, 2000," said the official, reading from a prepared text.
The last-minute push for a truce was punctuated by violence as suspected Palestinian gunmen killed a Greek monk in a West Bank drive-by shooting. Earlier in the day, Palestinians fired several mortars at Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip, but no one was wounded.
With the bitter animosity Israelis and Palestinians hold for each other after nine months of bloodletting and nearly 600 casualties, both Mr. Arafat and Mr. Sharon are expected to face resistance to the cease-fire from their own people.
While the American intelligence director met Mr. Arafat in his Ramallah office late yesterday, hundreds of Palestinians gathered outside the building chanting: "The intifada will continue."
"We came here to tell the director of the CIA, who came to save Sharon, 'get out of here," said Marwan Barghouthi, a member of Mr. Arafats Fatah movement and a leader of the Palestinian uprising.
"We tell Arafat to reject bowing to Tenet and to reject Tenets proposals. Our resistance will continue until occupation ends," he said.
A leader of Hamas, one of the Palestinian groups that has carried out deadly suicide bombings against Israel, said Mr. Arafat accepted the deal only because he was under enormous pressure from the United States and the European Union.
Abdel-Aziz Rantissi, a Hamas leader, said in Gaza he did not believe Mr. Arafat would arrest members of his group nor stick with the truce for very long.
"I do not think that the Palestinian Authority will stand against the will of the people," Mr. Rantissi said in a statement published on the groups Web site.
During negotiations in recent days, Palestinian officials said they were willing to prevent Hamas and Islamic Jihad from conducting further attacks but would not carry out mass arrests.
Palestinians also said they opposed a clause in Mr. Tenets plan that called for buffer zones to be established between Israeli and Palestinian lines in the West Bank and Gaza.
"The Palestinian side did not sign this document today," Mr. Abed Rabbo said. "Palestinians will sign it only when the whole package on the Mitchell recommendations is agreed, foremost being a halt to all settlement activities. This paper is considered a working plan as part of a whole package."
Israel has demanded that Mr. Arafat round up hundreds of militants released from prison at the start of the fighting. Mr. Sharon, who held several rounds of talks with Mr. Tenet in recent days, said he was uneasy about parts of the deal that held Mr. Arafat accountable solely for violence perpetrated from areas under his control.
"I cant say I am enthusiastic about the plan, but on the whole we can work and move forward," Mr. Sharon said in a speech to business people in Tel Aviv.

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