When the PA delegation complained to President Bush that expanding Jewish communities, such as the city of Ma'aleh Adumim, might make a new Arab state unacceptable, he eased their fears and said, "Don't worry. I have some political sway with Israel and will use it if need be."
PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) is in Jordan and on a tour to Egypt, Vatican, France and Spain before flying to Washington to meet President Bush on Thursday, and the White House meeting was aimed to ease PA worries. Israel has maintained that no further concessions can be granted to the PA until it takes measures to stop incitement and disarm terrorists.
One example of the PA's "revolving door" policy of arresting and releasing terrorists was described in the New York Times on Friday. It reported that Prime Minister Sharon asked Abbas at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit in February to inform Israeli authorities of the address of Arab terrorist Hasan al-Madhoun, a former member of the PA security forces who helped organize the suicide bombing at Ashdod in March 2004.
Abbas promised he would arrest the terrorist within 48 hours. After the time expired, the Prime Minister raised the issue with the American government, and the PA arrested al-Madhoun and then released him the following day. Later, the same terrorist was behind the attempted suicide bombing of a Be'er Sheva hospital by a woman.
Prime Minister Sharon and Abbas canceled a planned meeting this past week after aides told Abbas that Israel would refuse to commit itself to PA demands for the release of jailed Arab terrorists and IDF withdrawals from more cities. "It was only Washington that wanted the meeting," the Timesreported.
At the impromptu White House meeting with PA officials, President Bush assured them that he would pressure Israel to open up the Gaza region, according to the Post.
Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres met with PA negotiator Saeb Erakat on Friday on re-opening the Rafiah border between Gaza and Egypt. "I believe that in a short time we can come to an agreement," Peres said. He added Israel might remove its opposition to third party supervision of the crossing, leaving Israel without direct surveillance. However, Erakat rejected Israeli demands that cameras be mounted at the terminal.
The crossing was closed several days before Israel pulled out its troops from the area early last month, but Arab terrorists quickly re-opened it. Egypt officially has been manning the crossing, but Foreign Ministry officials said arms smuggling continues daily.