U.S. says not involved in Geneva Accord
Arafat: Accord lacks official status; Israeli negotiator Beilin: Palestinian right of return not included in final text of Geneva Accord.
The American administration said Tuesday it was not involved in the formulation of the Geneva Accord peace proposal drafted by unofficial Israeli and Palestinian negotiators, and State Department spokesman Richard Boucher emphasized the U.S. is committed strictly to the road map peace plan.
During a press conference on Tuesday, Boucher said the Geneva Accord was a private initiative and not something in which the United States was involved on any official level.
The U.S. believes the road map is the right way to advance plans to establish a Palestinian state, Boucher told reporters.
Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, responding with caution to the Geneva Accord, on Tuesday called it a bid to achieve Middle East peace, but noted that the document had no official standing.
Former senior Palestinian Authority and Israeli left-wing figures finished drafting the accord on Sunday in a ceremony in Jordan, and it is expected to be signed in Switzerland in the coming weeks.
Arafat did not comment on the specifics of the deal, which gives Palestinians a state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and divides Jerusalem, but largely keeps Palestinian refugees from returning to homes in Israel.
"Our policy is not to undercut any attempt to reach the peace of the brave," Arafat said.
Top Palestinian Authority officials confirmed Monday that Yasser Abed Rabbo, the former PA minister who headed the group of unofficial Palestinian negotiators, is a very close associate of Arafat's, and there is no chance he would have gone ahead with the talks without the PA chairman's approval.
However, Arafat will not take a clear position on the accord proposal until he is able to gauge Palestinian public opinion. It remains unclear how the Palestinian public is leaning on the accord issue.
At the same time, Arafat is reaping a secondary benefit from the accord, which has both bolstered public debate within Israel and helped defray the government's contentions that there is no one to talk to on the Palestinian side.
Beilin: No mention of Palestinian right of returnFormer justice minister Yossi Beilin, one of the leading architects of the Geneva Accord said Tuesday that, contrary to reports, there will be no mention of a Palestinian right of return in the final text of the agreement.
The full version of the Geneva Accord refers to UN Resolution number 194, which allows refugees to choose between return or compensation - but the Geneva Accord adds that such refugee return is contingent upon Israel's consent. Should the PA officially endorse the Geneva Accord, it would be the first time the Palestinians have effectively relinquished demands for a full right of return for all refugees.
Former Palestinian minister Hisham Abd al-Raziq was quoted Monday as denying that the agreement includes a concession on the Palestinian right of return, which was said to have formed the core of the agreement.
But Beilin told Israel Radio on Tuesday, "No Palestinian will enter Israel under a 'right of return.' There will be nothing like this. This does not exist in any (document). There will be no right of return. ... Who ever thinks that through some clause or other he can say that there is a right of return - there is no right of return here.
"If the Palestinians keep this hope in their hearts, hope cannot be uprooted from the heart, but there is no right of return in this agreement, and there will be none."
Beilin also blasted Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for reportedly condemning the accord as hampering peace efforts. "Does anyone truly believe that Sharon is in the midst of serious negotiations and Yossi Beilin is hampering him by bringing an agreement with someone else?"
"This is foolishness and nonsense," Beilin continued. "For three years, Sharon has been babbling on about his wanting peace - and he doesn't do anything."
Meanwhile, senior government officials continued to lambast Beilin and his team Tuesday for conducting the negotiations. Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said the negotiations were "very grave and pathetic," and that concessions over holy sites in Jerusalem were "shameful."
"It is pathetic, in that the public cast aside these people, threw some of them out of positions of influence in Israel, and they presume to do these things. It is grave, because they knowingly want to act as levers in the hands of foreign powers in order to put pressure on Israel."
Olmert said the Israeli negotiators were "not private citizens, but members of Knesset: they represent parties in an official capacity. This impersonation, this pretense, that they are signing a supposed agreement with a foreign entity, is something for which I cannot find a precedent in the modern history of democratic nations."
Sharon is said to have described the document as "the greatest historical mistake since Oslo."
Sharon's predecessor was equally withering. Former prime minister Ehud Barak, who left office in early 2001, several months after the intifada broke out, said Monday it was unfortunate that the Labor Party had permitted some of its members to formulate such a "delusional" peace plan.
"This is a fictive and slightly peculiar agreement... that clearly harms the interests of the State of Israel," Barak told Israel Radio.
Complaint filed with police against Israelis behind Geneva AccordA Tel Aviv resident on Tuesday filed a complaint against those behind the Geneva Accord, saying that the plan undermines government activity and the peace process. The man told the police that he did not represent any political organization.
MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said Tuesday that the understandings should be called the Munich, not the Geneva, accord. "The Israeli left has a suicidal tendency," Ariel told Israel Radio on Tuesday. Ariel said he told the attorney general that the Israelis behind the plan may be violating impersonation laws by adding the words Israeli Government to their signatures.