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Last Updated: Friday, 17 November 2006, 10:07 GMT
Israel dismisses new peace plan
Israeli forces in the centre f the West Bank city of Hebron
The Middle East peace process has ground to a complete halt
Israel has dismissed a Middle East peace plan put forward by Spain, France and Italy.

The plan calls for a ceasefire and increased international intervention in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

An Israeli official said parts of the plan were being discussed, but it was not being taken seriously as it was not co-ordinated with the EU or Israel.

The Spanish prime minister proposed the plan, saying the situation required urgent action by the outside world.

"We cannot remain impassive in the face of the horror that continues to unfold before our eyes," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said.

"Violence has reached a level of deterioration that requires determined, urgent action by the international community."

Israeli opposition

Israel has long opposed greater international intervention and does not favour an international peace conference.

"Israel believes that it is right to conduct direct negotiations with all sides of the conflict," Amira Oron, the foreign ministry spokeswoman, said.

Peace between Israel and the Palestinians means to a large extent peace on the international scene
Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
Spanish prime minister

A senior Palestinian negotiator, Saeb Erekat, welcomed the plan in principle.

But he added: "We don't need to reinvent the wheel, we don't need a new initiative. What we need is a mechanism for implementation and timelines [for settlement]."

"President Bush has specified the endgame as a two-state solution. What we need is a realistic political track, and that's where this initiative can come in."

EU summit

"Peace between Israel and the Palestinians means to a large extent peace on the international scene," Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Thursday as he presented the initiative.

French President Jacques Chirac (left) and Spanish PM Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero
Zapatero [right] and Chirac are two of the plans main advocates
He said a plan would be put to an EU summit in December and he hoped it would be backed by the UK and Germany.

The proposal would include an immediate ceasefire and the formation of a Palestinian unity government.

The other three components of the plan would involve an exchange of prisoners, talks between Israel's prime minister and the Palestinian Authority president and an international mission in Gaza to monitor a ceasefire.

The peace move comes after a major Israeli ground offensive in Gaza aimed at ending militant rocket fire into Israel.

More than 80 Palestinians were killed in the operation and the period immediately after it, many of them civilians.

On Wednesday, a Palestinian rocket fired into Israel killed an Israeli woman and seriously injured two men.

Israeli forces have made regular incursions into Gaza and the West Bank since the capture of an Israeli soldier in a cross-border raid by Palestinian militants on 25 June.

Fourteen months ago Israel withdrew its settlers and military bases from the Gaza Strip, which it occupied in 1967.

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