- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

TEL AVIV, Israel, April 18 (UPI) — Israel has offered to ease its grip on the Palestinians once Mohammad Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, becomes prime minister and shows readiness to combat terror, a senior Israeli diplomatic source said Friday.

The source, who spoke to United Press International on condition of anonymity, said the Israeli thinking had been shared with senior Palestinian officials such as Finance Minister Salaam Fayyad and Interior Minister Hani al-Hassan, responsible for security.

The Head of the Israeli Prime Minister's Bureau, Dov Weissglas, presented the Israeli plans to the U.S. administration several days ago in Washington, the source added.

The offer is conditional on a 100 percent Palestinian effort to curb militants, the source maintained. The emphasis was on the word effort rather than success.

"We don't expect Abu Mazen to stop everything, all at once, with a magic wand. But he, the Palestinian Authority, should show a 100 percent effort. They should establish new security systems, act with determination to detain and interrogate suspects and disarm terrorist organizations. When we'll see action, we'll react accordingly," the official said.

In the past, the government of Ariel Sharon has insisted on a cessation of terrorist attacks for a fixed period of time before it takes any move. That was because Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his lieutenants were behind the attacks, the official said.

Now, he continued, Israel anticipates the emergence of a new Palestinian administration that would break away from Arafat's policies. Abu Mazen, who helped negotiate the Oslo accords with Israel, has spoken out against the military aspects of the intifada. One of his top lieutenants is likely to be Mohammad Dahlan, the former head of the Palestinian Preventive Security in Gaza, who reportedly is also critical of the militant attacks.

The diplomatic source told UPI that Israel was willing to pull back troops that in the past year have reoccupied all West Bank cities except Jericho. It is also ready to increase the number of work permits for Palestinians who seek jobs in Israel and hand over more of the Palestinian funds it is has been holding.

Israel is suggesting revival of a previous government plan whereby the Palestinians would assume responsibility for a specified area and the Israelis would then pull out of it, repeating the process elsewhere.

A pullback is possible even immediately, the source said.

The Israeli move comes as the United States is reported to have rejected the last 14 or 15 Israeli requests for amendments to a roadmap it devised with the European Union, the United Nations and Russia. That roadmap outlines steps that Israel and the Palestinians must take so that Israel will have peace and security and the Palestinians a state.

Sharon has demanded the Palestinians take the first steps to ensure an end to violence. Each measure should be completed before the other side is expected to make its move, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom insisted.

The United States is planning to publish the roadmap when Abu Mazen is confirmed in his new job.

"We're not waiting for the roadmap," the diplomatic source said. "It all depends on whether there will be someone who will go with us … We don't have to wait for the United States to pressure us."

Meanwhile, Jerusalem Magistrate's Court Friday remanded into a week's custody four Border Policemen suspected of having killed a Palestinian teenager who they picked up on Dec. 30.

Palestinian sources said Imran Abu Hamadia, 17, was taken away in a jeep, ostensibly for questioning, and his dead body was later found on a road in Hebron.

The Justice Ministry's spokesman, Jacob Galanti, said they suspect Abu Hamadia fell out of the jeep, or was pushed out, to avenge a Palestinian attack in Hebron several days earlier.

A Justice Ministry unit that investigates complaints against policemen is also looking into reports of other police brutality in the area, Galanti confirmed.

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