- The Washington Times - Monday, June 17, 2002

From combined dispatches
SALEM JUNCTION, Israel Prime Minister Ariel Sharon yesterday ruled out any provisional Palestinian statehood an idea floated by the Bush administration and sent bulldozers to flatten ground for an electronic fence that Palestinians said would effectively cancel out hopes for a future peace deal.
Supporters of the fence, designed to protect Israelis from Palestinian suicide bombers, maintained it did not in any way stake out a final border between the Israelis and Palestinians.
Mr. Sharon had said previously that Palestinian attacks on Israelis must end before any talks on creation of a Palestinian state can take place. But Secretary of State Colin L. Powell raised the idea of an interim state last week, and the idea is one of several ideas President Bush is considering.
Mr. Sharon reiterated his tough line yesterday in his first Cabinet meeting since returning from talks in Washington, saying Israel would not return to the 1967 borders.
Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar said he reported at the meeting that he had told the Americans "that this is not the time for any type of Palestinian state."
Palestinian Labor Minister Ghassan al-Khatib called Mr. Sharon's remarks "another destructive position," indicating Israel had no intention to return to negotiations and contradicted the idea of a two-state solution to the conflict.
Both Palestinians and hard-line Israelis dislike the idea of a security fence, meant to replace an ineffectual hodgepodge of barriers and fences that have been erected over the past year.
The first length of fence will be built over eight months along a 75-mile stretch from Salem Junction in northern Israel south to a point northeast of Tel Aviv.
Palestinians maintain the fence will take West Bank land they want for a state. Conservative Israelis fear that what is being billed as a temporary "security fence" will evolve into a permanent border with a future Palestinian state. If that happened, many of the 200,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank would be left on the Palestinian side.
Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer said a consensus is building among Israeli politicians in support of the barrier, which he has called necessary and temporary. Mr. Ben-Eliezer, who visited the construction site at Salem Junction yesterday, said the fence isn't intended to be a political barrier.
"It has one and only one clear aim to defend the lives of Israeli citizens," Mr. Ben-Eliezer said. "Every extra day that passes without the fence being built could cost us more victims."
Several ministers raised objections to the fence at yesterday's Cabinet meeting.
Work on the fence, which is to be part of a system of defensive measures to stop or curb suicide bombers from launching attacks against Israelis from Palestinian areas, will go ahead for now, but the smaller security Cabinet was expected to take up the issue Wednesday.
Mr. Sharon, an ardent supporter of Israeli settlement expansion for decades, opposes the barrier for ideological reasons. He gave his approval this month only reluctantly.
Palestinian Cabinet minister Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, said work on the fence effectively canceled Israeli-Palestinian peace accords which established limited or full Palestinian control in some West Bank areas.
He accused Israel of seeking to divide Palestinian areas into cantons and "start a new apartheid system worse than what happened in South Africa."
"This will add fuel to the fire. This will deprive Palestinains of any hope whatsoever," Mr. Erekat said in comments broadcast by Sky News.
Of the nearly 70 suicide bombings in Israel over the past 20 months, all have been launched from the West Bank, which has no barrier separating it from Israel.


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