Israel to present PA with goodwill steps in coming days

Israel will respond with a series of positive gestures if the successors to Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat will implement security reforms and a „real” cease-fire felt on the ground in the territories, Israeli security and diplomatic sources said Saturday. According to the sources, in the next few days Israel will present the PA with a number of humanitarian steps meant to demonstrate good will towards the Palestinians. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon held a series of meetings last week with Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Moshe Ya’alon and senior defense establishment figures to discuss the „day after” Arafat’s death.

The meetings resulted in a series of conclusions: * Israel will continue to fight terrorism, with an emphasis on heading off terror attacks before they are carried out; * Israel will ease conditions around Arafat’s funeral and will make all efforts to allow foreign dignitaries to attend the event; * Israel will follow the efforts made by Mahmoud Abbas, secretary-general of the PLO executive committee, and by Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia to impose order in the territories and to advance reforms in the PA and will respond in kind with positive steps; * Israel will formulate a package of humanitarian steps it will implement in the territories. Israel is prepared to allow Arafat’s burial in the Gaza Strip but opposes his burial in the West Bank or in Jerusalem. Efforts will be made to allow foreign dignitaries to fly directly to Gaza for the event. A special „air corridor” will allow officials from Arab states that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel to fly to Arafat’s funeral without passing through Israeli border control. Officials in Jerusalem don’t believe Abbas or Qureia will be too quick to ask Israel to implement its announced gestures before first securing internal understandings among the Palestinian factions and demonstrating security reforms in the territories. „They don’t want to declare a cease-fire and then have a terror attack in [Tel Aviv’s] Carmel Market two days later,” one of the Israeli sources said. BPI-info