Many See No Point To Peace Summit
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Palestinian cities are surrounded by Israeli tanks, and residents are unable to leave their homes in some areas. Fighting has left nearly 80 dead among them and thousands of wounded.
An Israeli soldier, killed by an angry Palestinian mob, was laid to rest Sunday. Across the country and in Jewish settlements, Israelis spent the weekend indoors, fearing possible terror attacks predicted by Israeli security chiefs.
Doubtful that the wounds from weeks of violence can be healed at Monday’s crucial Mideast summit, many on both sides think their leaders should have stayed home.
In the West Bank settlement of Elon Moreh, home to an American-born rabbi found shot to death one week ago _ probably by Palestinians _ neighbors discussed security arrangements around their community _ and devoted little time to the summit.
``So many times we have gone to summits and signed agreements with the (Palestinians) that are not worth the paper they are written on, so what good will another summit do?″ asked Rabbi Elyakim Levanon. He said Israel instead should disarm Palestinian police who can no longer be trusted with the weapons they were given as part of earlier peace deals.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat both headed into Monday’s summit at Sharm el-Sheik, Egypt, as reluctant participants with low expectations. Their advisers have repeatedly said they believe little will be accomplished.
Several informal cease-fires to end the unrest have collapsed so far and marathon meetings Oct. 4 in Paris failed to get the leaders to come to terms on a truce.
The violence exploded after a Sept. 28 visit by a hardline Israeli politician to a Jerusalem shrine holy to Jews and Muslims. Close to 100 have been killed, most of them Palestinians.
Many frustrated Palestinians believe Arafat will face intense pressure to sign an unfavorable agreement at the summit, to be attended by President Clinton, and the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and the United Nations.
``The struggle is not going to end with the summit or with words. It’s just the beginning because now we are facing our destiny,″ said Nader Jabari, a 41-year-old Palestinian math teacher who lives in Hebron, West Bank. He referred to the United States as ``the devil,″ adding that Palestinians will not settle for less than their own state.
Israel has slapped a closure on the West Bank, preventing Palestinians from leaving their communities. In Hebron, an added internal closure has kept thousands of Palestinians, who live in close proximity to a handful of Jewish settlers, from even leaving their homes.
After two Israeli reserve soldiers were killed by a crazed Palestinian mob in Ramallah Thursday, many Israelis wondered whether Barak should even be talking to Arafat anymore. Indeed, Barak has said he no longer is convinced that Arafat is a partner for peace and has questioned his sincerity about ending the worst violence since the two sides began regular peace talks in 1993.
The aim of Monday’s gathering is strictly to bring about a cease-fire and Barak has said he would not discuss any other matters there, including a timetable for restarting peace talks.
Although the violence has mostly abated, two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded by gunfire from the Jordanian border on Sunday and a Palestinian man died of wounds suffered Wednesday.
Yosef Avrahami, a 38-year-old father of four, who was killed in the Ramallah attack, was laid to rest outside of Tel Aviv Sunday.
He was killed along with Vadim Norjitz, a Russian immigrant who was married last week. Norjitz’s brother Michael said it was critical for Israel now that Barak attend the summit.
``If Arafat rejects any offers then at least everyone will know and hopefully see that this wasn’t all our fault,″ he said.