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The BBC's Orla Guerin
"The message on the West Bank is still war"
 real 56k

Benjamin Ben-Eliezer,Israeli Defence Minister
"I am ready to stop everything"
 real 56k

Friday, 27 April, 2001, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
Israel considers peace plan response
Fatah demonstration on Israeli Independence Day
Israel wants specific Palestinian steps to end violence
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is briefing his foreign minister, Shimon Peres, on objections to a joint Egypt-Jordanian peace proposal before Mr Peres leaves to discuss the plan in Cairo and Washington.

Mr Sharon wants to make modifications to the plan, which is aimed at ending seven months of violence between Israeli and the Palestinians; senior Palestinian figures say they will not accept changes.


If we make peace, what's the problem with there being settlements? Who does it bother?

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Mr Peres' trip begins shortly after Defence Minister Binyamin Ben Eliezer said he plans to open Israel's borders to tens of thousands of Palestinian workers, who have been kept out of the country on security grounds.

Israeli Cabinet Minister Dan Naveh told the BBC that Mr Ben Eliezer's gesture was an "olive branch" to the Palestinians.

Mixed reactions

Mr Sharon has welcomed the fact of the Jordanian-Egyptian initiative, angering some members of his own Cabinet.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres
Mr Peres will discuss the plan in Egypt and the US
Tourism Minister Rehavam Zeevi, who represents an ultra-nationalist party, said that by sending Mr Peres to Egypt, Mr Sharon was breaking a campaign pledge not to negotiate until the Palestinians end violence against Israeli targets.

On the Palestinian side, meanwhile, senior negotiator Saeb Erekat said any Israeli changes to the initiative "will definitely torpedo it".

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed Moscow's support for the plan on Friday during a visit by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In Washington on Thursday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that "there may be something that comes out of" the plan.

"Hopefully both sides understand they have reached the limit of the strategies they have been following," he said.

Israeli objections

Israel objects to a number of elements of the plan.

  • Israel demands details of measures Palestinians will take to stop violence.

  • It says it will not honour verbal agreements reached with the previous government of Ehud Barak.

  • It rejects an absolute ban on construction in settlements.

Mr Sharon downplayed the importance of settlements in an interview published in Israel on Friday.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
Mr Sharon promised he would not negotiate under fire
He said the Oslo accords - which he rejects - do not demand the dismantling of settlements until there is a peace agreement.

"If we make peace, what's the problem with there being settlements? Who does it bother?" he asked rhetorically in a Jerusalem Post interview.

Mr Sharon rejects his predecessor's strategy of pushing for a final peace agreement with the Palestinians, preferring to work towards a medium-term interim agreement.

Violence continued in the region on Friday, with a Palestinian civilian being wounded by Israeli fire and two Israelis wounded by a bomb in separate incidents in the Gaza Strip.

About 400 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis have been killed in seven months of violence between the two sides.

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See also:

27 Apr 01 | Middle East
Jerusalem's beleaguered tourist trade
25 Apr 01 | Middle East
Gaza blast kills four
24 Apr 01 | Middle East
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24 Apr 01 | Middle East
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22 Apr 01 | Middle East
Mid-East deadlock continues
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