Still No Final Agreement on Turning Over 4 Cities to PA Control

Arms smuggling from Egypt to the PA via Gaza has reached catastrophic proportions, Israeli security experts say.

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Prime Minister Sharon convened security and defense leaders this morning to discuss the impending withdrawal from four PA cities. Holding up the retreat from Kalkilye and Jericho, according to most reports, is a disagreement on the manner in which the PA will supervise heavily-wanted terrorists. Israel has ceded its demand for their arrest or transfer to Jericho, and is being pressured to give in still more.

Arutz-7's Haggai Huberman reports, however, that the problem actually is not the terrorists, but rather the checkpoints around Kalkilye:
"It was originally agreed that the eastern checkpoint, on the road leading to Shechem, would be removed - but suddenly yesterday, the PA's Gen. Haj Ismail, who is leading the talks for the PA, demanded the removal of two additional checkpoints on roads leading to [Jewish] areas... He made it an ultimatum, saying that without this, there would be no agreement. We have to keep in mind that Ismail is Arafat's right-hand man, and it's clear that this was a signal from Arafat. Arafat wants Kalkilye, of course, but he simply wants to make it clear to Abu Mazen that he [Arafat] is in charge and that the withdrawal will take place only when he says."

At a joint press conference with U.S. Sen. John McCain on Sunday, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that Arafat "has given signals to the Palestinians to continue their 'struggle' - and that means a green light to continue terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians. Arafat is still there and he is still doing everything to ensure that Abu Mazen not succeed. Why? Because if Abu Mazen successfully stops terrorism, the world will ask Arafat why he couldn't do it over the past 10 years."

Asked why Israel is handing over more cities if the Palestinians are not fulfilling their commitments, Shalom said, "Both parties should implement their commitments. One of ours is withdrawing to the place we stood on September 29, 2000. We are trying to do that. At the same time, we ask the Palestinians to implement their commitments to dismantle the infrastructure of terrorism, to confiscate
illegal weapons and to put an end to incitement of all kinds. Every city we withdraw from - it means that the Palestinians give a commitment that no violence or terrorism will emanate from those cities..."

Arafat is hoping to soon be able to leave Ramallah for the first time in 20 months. This will apparently happen if the IDF withdraws from Ramallah next week, pending an agreement between Israel and the PA. Three Foreign Ministers - from Japan, Ethiopia, and Nicaragua - are visiting in Israel this week, and all of them are adhering to Israel's request not to meet with Yasser Arafat.

A classified report indicates that the PA has been staging the thwarting of terrorist attempts. In an attempt to demonstrate its adherence to the Road Map, and to pressure Israel to continue making concessions, the PA has been filming staged "terrorist attack thwartings." The procedure is that an explosives vest is hidden, and then cameras are brought to the area when the PA security forces "discover" the bomb. Israeli sources say they will not be influenced by these dramatizations.