Monday, 11 April 2005

Atmosphere in Israel looks like eve of civil war

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, in an interview broadcast by NBC News on Monday, spoke of the growing threat of violence by extreme-right Jewish activists in Israel ahead of the disengagement plan.

"The tension here [in Israel], the atmosphere here looks like the eve of the civil war," Sharon said. He also said that although he had been defending Jews all his life, steps are now taken to protect his own life from attacks by Jews.

Sharon, currently on a visit in the United States, also spoke of prospects of the renewal of the peace process with the Palestinians.

"Yasser Arafat, first was a military man, and during his rule there was no chance whatsoever to reach peace," Sharon said. " I believe [that] at the current time, maybe for the first time, there is a possibility to try and solve the problem."

Sharon to warn Bush that Abbas rule could collapse
In their Monday meeting at George W. Bush's Texas ranch, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is expected to tell the president that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' rule is collapsing and that the PA chairman is not abiding by his promises.

In addition, Sharon will raise the possibility of preparing for the fall of Abbas' rule.

There has been growing concern that the fragile ceasefire declared by Sharon and Abbas in February is fraying. In retaliation for the killings of three Palestinian teenagers by IDF troops in Gaza on Saturday, militants fired some 100 mortar shells and rockets at Gaza Strip settlements and at the western Negev.

One message Sharon may deliver to the president is that if Abbas fails to take actiopn to curb militant violence, Israel will be forced to do so itself, Army Radio reported Monday.

The statement was underscored by Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who said of Abbas early Monday, "Abu Mazen must understand: If he doesn't do it - and he's not showing signs of doing it - then we will do it. And then there may be some chance that he'll do something. But if he doesn't, then we will."

Sharon will also tell the American president that armed Palestinian organizations are violating their own cease-fire promises.

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