- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 14, 2001

JERUSALEM — Israelis and Palestinians began quarreling yesterday on the specifics of a U.S.-brokered agreement on the first day of the accords implementation of a shaky truce.
Analysts on both sides predicted the agreement would not last long.
Hours after the armistice went into effect, Israel eased travel restrictions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to allow Palestinian security personnel to get to their posts, where they were to prevent gunmen from firing on Israelis.
According to the agreement, clinched early Tuesday by CIA chief George Tenet, Israel has 48 hours to start pulling its tanks and troops back from positions they assumed when the fighting started in September, while Palestinians are to begin arresting militants planning attacks on the Jewish state.
But disputes over at least two elements in the agreement coupled with announcements by Palestinian groups rejecting the cease-fire, cast a pall over American efforts to end the heaviest fighting in the region in decades.
"It has too many holes, I just dont think it will hold," said Israeli political analyst Ephraim Inbar, reflecting widespread sentiment among both Israelis and Palestinians.
Despite the agreement, an Israeli woman was wounded and a Palestinian man was killed in West Bank shooting incidents yesterday.
The woman, from a settlement near Bethlehem, came under fire from the direction of a Palestinian village while waiting at a bus stop near her home. Police said at least 39 bullets were fired. They said the woman escaped with moderate wounds.
Palestinians have carried out frequent shooting attacks on Israeli settlers in the West Bank.
Hours later, a Palestinian driver was found dead behind the wheel of his minivan in what Palestinians described as an ambush by Jewish settlers.
The casualties notwithstanding, President Bush said he was encouraged by the agreement and called for "concrete action" to shore up the cease-fire.
"Its one thing for folks to sign a piece of paper, its another thing for the parties to act," Mr. Bush told reporters after meeting NATO leaders in Brussels, where he is on the second leg of a five-nation tour of Europe.
Mr. Tenet, who left Israel yesterday, had spent a week in the region coaxing the two sides into a cessation of violence based on the terms of a report issued last month by former Sen. George Mitchell.
But while the report outlines a broad series of military and political steps to get Israelis and Palestinians away from the battle lines and back to the bargaining table, the three-page Tenet accord is narrower, focusing almost solely on security measures.
For many Palestinians, who had hoped their bloody revolt would lead to Israeli political concessions, it was a disappointment.
"The whole agreement stresses Israels security needs. It has nothing for the Palestinians in the way of political achievements," said strategic analyst Abdullah Hourani, a leading member of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafats Fatah faction.
The Tenet agreement has not been published but Israeli and Palestinian officials described it as a three-stage plan that, if successful, will give way to implementation of the Mitchell report.
The first stage ends tomorrow, with Israelis and Palestinians taking initial security measures to restore calm in the West Bank and Gaza Strip after nearly nine months of fighting that has claimed the lives of some 600 people, most of them Palestinians.
During the second stage, a five-day period, Israel is to lift its siege over the West Bank and Gaza and allow Palestinian workers to get back to their jobs in Israel. In response, Palestinians are required to collect illegal weapons from guerrillas and reactivate security cooperation between officers on both sides.
A further "cooling off" period will last six weeks and only then will the two sides will be required to begin the political measures spelled out in the Mitchell report, including a freeze on Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank and Gaza — something Palestinians have been demanding for months.
Even then, according to the Israelis, if the cease-fire is violated the cooling-off clock begins anew.
Palestinians poignantly refused to sign the Tenet agreement even as they announced early Tuesday that they had accepted it.
Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo said Palestinians viewed Mr. Tenets document as a "working plan" and would only sign a broader deal that includes political incentives.
Other Palestinians said Mr. Arafat would not arrest Islamic militants despite a clause in the agreement that said he must "apprehend, question, and incarcerate terrorists in the West Bank and Gaza."
A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in the first stage Palestinians must round up a few dozen militants whom Israel describes as "ticking bombs."
"These are the leaders who coordinate the attacks, or the bombers themselves," said the spokesman, Raanan Gissin, referring to militants from Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, groups that have killed scores of Israelis in suicide attacks.
Hamas said yesterday it would not honor the cease-fire, and Islamic Jihad condemned the agreement as a "dangerous disappointment" for Palestinians that could "waste all their sacrifices and the blood of hundreds of martyrs."
With the situation between Israelis and Palestinians still volatile, one suicide bombing by Hamas or Islamic Jihad might be enough to wreck the the agreed-upon cease-fire.
But Mr. Hourani, the Palestinian analyst, said the groups would probably give Mr. Arafat time for diplomacy.
"I think theyll wait a few weeks to let him show the Americans and the Europeans that hes serious about the agreement," he said.
Mr. Hourani said Mr. Arafat was pressured into accepting the deal by not only the United States and the European Union but Arab states as well. He said the Egyptians phoned the Palestinian leader three times during his make-or-break meeting with Mr. Tenet early Tuesday to press him to accept the American plan.
A more minor point in the agreement that Palestinians say they will not uphold calls for maintaining buffer zones between Israeli and Palestinian troops that will be off limits to protesters.
Palestinians said the zones, which would encroach 1,650 feet into their territory, amounted to Israeli reoccupation of parts of the West Bank and Gaza.

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