Palestinians declare peace process dead, urge U.S. action

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) — Declaring the Mideast peace process dead, top Palestinian officials urged the United States on Monday to push Benjamin Netanyahu’s Israeli government to honor its agreements.
“Without any pressure or any international sanctions imposed in Netanyahu’s government, then the Middle East future will be one of war and not of peace,” said Ahmed Abdel Rahman, the secretary general of the Palestinian Cabinet.
Rahman and Palestinian planning minister Nabil Shaath said a series of secret contacts initiated by the Israeli prime minister have gone nowhere and were designed to deceive other nations into believing that Israel was forging ahead with peace talks.
The officials, interviewed separately by The Associated Press, confirmed reports of recent high-level talks, including lengthy negotiations between Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat’s deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, and with the Palestinian parliament speaker, Ahmed Qureia.
In further diplomatic activity Monday, Israeli Cabinet Secretary Danny Naveh met with the chief Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, at the home of U.S. Ambassador Edward Walker. They were discussing two relatively minor issues, the operation of the Palestinian airport and the opening of an industrial park, both in the Gaza strip.
The talks “just produce a mirage the peace process is OK when there is absolutely no activity whatsoever,” Shaath said. “It is extremely useful from Mr. Netanyahu’s point of view because it keeps the Americans away, keeps them from using their potential pressure to get this process moving.”
“The peace process is dead,” said Rahman. “There has been no official funeral. No one is willing to take the dead body to the cemetery.”