Despite Quartet Pressure, Mofaz-Dahlan Meeting Produces No Results

Quartet envoy Wolfensohn is close to a decision to return home, says next 72 hours are critical for mission; warns Gaza in danger of turning into giant prison.

The Sunday evening meeting held between Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, Palestinian Civil Affairs Minister Mohammed Dahlan and Quartet Special Envoy for Disengagement James Wolfensohn in Jerusalem to discuss the opening of Gaza-Israel border crossings produced no results.

The three agreed to meet again on Monday.

Earlier on Sunday, Wolfensohn voiced frustration over the lack of change in the atmosphere between Israel and the Palestinians. He said that the next 72 hours would be critical for the continuation of his mission, and warned of the danger that the Gaza Strip could turn to a giant prison.

Wolfenson said he was close to a decision to return home and added that he will convey his worries to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shortly after she arrives in Israel on Sunday evening.

Speaking at a meeting with managers of the Karni Crossing cargo terminal in the Gaza Strip, Wolfensohn warned that Israel would suffer permanent damage if agricultural produce from the Gaza Strip, including hothouses in Gush Katif, rots due to Israeli restrictions on the passage of trucks through the Karni Crossing.

He expressed anger at the delays caused by the Palestinian side, and said he had heard reports of several incidents in which explosive devices where found in trucks headed to Israel through the Karni Crossing.

Wolfensohn said that he was also frustrated with the lack of Israeli decision-making regarding the activation of the Gaza sea-port and airport, the restrictions on Palestinian freedom of movement in the West Bank and the lack of progress in talks on removal of waste from evacuated settlements in the Gaza Strip.

He said he was disappointed by the fact that the Israelis did not share his sense of urgency in solving these problems, which threaten to deepen unemployment in the Strip and increase hate toward Israel. He told the Karni Crossing executives that they were not the problem, but rather the solution, hinting that the Israeli government was responsible for the foot-dragging.

Earlier on Sunday, Wolfensohn visited Palestinian hothouses in the Gaza Strip, and toured Palestinian area of the crossing, inspecting the new security arrangements added since Israel's disengagement from Gaza.