- The Washington Times - Monday, October 16, 2000

NETZARIM, Gaza Strip For Yitzhak Vazana, Israel's decision to attend today's summit with the Palestinians in Egypt is a mistake.
The 41-year-old Israeli settler, whose home in the Gaza Strip is a stone's throw from the site of some of the fiercest Arab-Israeli clashes of the past 18 days, said even if a cease-fire agreement is reached, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat could not be trusted to comply.
"We've had a lot of experience with Arafat. I just have no faith in him. I don't trust him," he said, walking along the perimeter fence of his Netzarim settlement, where 50 Jewish families live behind barbed wire, surrounded by a sea of Palestinians.
For many Israelis, trust was the first casualty of the violence that erupted in the West Bank and Gaza Strip last month, touched off by the visit of Israeli opposition leader Ariel Sharon to a Jerusalem shrine holy to Jews and Muslims.
For Jewish settlers, long skeptical of Mr. Arafat's intentions, the clashes have served as a vindication for what they've been saying for years that Mr. Arafat is not a real peace partner.
Mr. Vazana and other residents of Netzarim were under siege for 11 of the past 18 days because of the violence, which has killed about 100 persons in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Clashes along the main road linking Netzarim to Israel, including stone-throwing incidents and gunbattles, prevented them from leaving their homes.
Army helicopters ferried in food every night and evacuated those residents who had to travel to Israel. The rest remained trapped on the settlement, one of the most isolated and controversial Jewish communities in the Palestinian territories.
"It wasn't pleasant. It more or less confirmed our worst fears, that they can cut us off at will," said Mr. Vazana, who lost an eye in a 1995 bombing attack near his home by Palestinian militants.
Palestinians have borne the brunt of the fighting, which largely subsided on the eve of today's summit. All but seven of the casualties are Arabs.
But Israelis say that is because their army is better equipped and better trained, not because it started the clashes.
Both sides agreed on one thing: The summit might not even end the violence, let alone renew peacemaking.
Mr. Barak blamed Mr. Arafat for inciting the unrest.
"What the hell kind of purpose could he have in having this kind of violence?" he said in one interview conducted ahead of the summit. "So I already know quite probably we don't have a partner for peace, unfortunately."
Senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said Mr. Arafat would again demand an international investigation into the violence, a condition that spoiled an Arafat-Barak meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright in Paris on Oct. 4.
"I honestly don't want to raise anyone's expectations, and I don't have high expectations myself," Mr. Erekat said. "I think the situation is going to be nightmarish."
Many Palestinians voiced anger yesterday at Mr. Arafat's agreement to attend the summit, accusing him of wasting the sacrifices of more than two weeks of clashes with Israel.
To many Palestinians, the meeting is an attempt to defuse an Arab summit scheduled for Oct. 21-22, called to bolster the Palestinians' refusal to accept Israel's terms for peace, notably on the thorny issue of Jerusalem.
In news that cast another shadow over the summit, the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla movement claimed yesterday that it had captured an Israeli colonel, in addition to three soldiers it is holding.
Mr. Barak confirmed that a businessman who was an army reservist had been kidnapped while on a trip in Europe.
At Netzarim, an army commander pointed to a military post where Israeli and Palestinian troops had until three weeks ago met every day for their joint patrols, a cornerstone of the security arrangement in the West Bank and Gaza.
"It's going to take a long time [to] rebuild the trust," the commander said. "Until then, we can't really ask our soldiers to go out and patrol with them like they used to. It's just not feasible."

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