June 12, 2005.
By refusing to disarm terrorists the Palestinian Authority (PA) has dropped a “cluster bomb” on chances of renewing peace talks, Israel’s vice premier said Sunday, vowing that the Israeli army will fiercely fight the militants if the Palestinians refuse to do so themselves.
Israeli officials were infuriated by Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Al Kidwa’s
comment Saturday that the Palestinian Authority had no intention of disarming
militants as long as the Israeli occupation continues.
Al Kidwa’s comments mean the Palestinian Authority is absolving itself from its
commitments under the U.S.-backed road map peace plan, Israeli officials said.
According to the first phase of the road map, Palestinians must disarm terrorist
groups and Israel must freeze construction in Jewish settlements.
While Israel prepares for the disengagement and destroys existing
settlements, so far the Israeli withdrawal from Palestinian territories has only
given terrorists an opportunity to bolster their weapons caches.
“The dismantling of armed organizations is not on the table because weapons
are legal as long as the occupation exists,” Al Kidwa told Palestinian television,
according to a transcript released Saturday by his office. “Possession of
weapons is a strategic issue as long as there is occupation.”
Al Kidwa’s comments marked the first time a Palestinian official openly said
terrorists would not be disarmed. Until now, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas
has said that due to the weak state of his security forces he would co-opt the
militants, with the longterm goal of collecting illegal weapons.
“The refusal of the Palestinian Authority to disarm the terror groups
drops a cluster bomb on the process that could lead to negotiations and quiet,”
Vice Premier Ehud Olmert told Israel Radio. “Very simply, either they will fight
terrorism or we will fight terrorism.”
Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim said Israel will not begin peace talks until
the Palestinians disarm terrorists. Al Kidwa’s comment “places doubt on the
Palestinian intention to enter the road map framework acceptable to the entire
international community,” Boim told Israel Radio.