Israel intends to change `road map'

Official says proposals that affect Israeli security will not be negotiable

April 06, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

JERUSALEM - Israel will propose more than a dozen changes to a Middle East peace initiative and is prepared to abandon negotiations if the amendments are rejected, a top aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday.

Dov Weisglass, the head of Sharon's office, said most of Israel's concerns about the peace plan center on ending Palestinian attacks and establishing Palestinian security forces committed to halting violence.

The announcement came as Israeli troops allegedly shot and seriously wounded an American peace activist with the International Solidarity Movement in the West Bank town of Jenin.

In other violence yesterday, Israeli forces shot and killed a Palestinian gunman who infiltrated the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba, near Hebron.

The peace plan, called a "road map," is supported by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations as the path to reviving negotiations that collapsed more than two years ago. The goal is a comprehensive peace agreement and the creation of a Palestinian state by 2005.

Israel and the Palestinians support the plan in principle, though the Israelis have expressed some reservations.

The Palestinians say they accept the peace plan in its current form and accuse Israel of seeking to delay it or undermine efforts to carry it out by submitting a long list of alterations.

"We will submit 15 reservations on the road map to the United States, and if we find that a refusal of our proposed changes could jeopardize Israel's security, we will not accept it," Weisglass told Israel radio.

"On these issues we will not make any concessions, and if we have to, we will leave the negotiating table and come home," said Weisglass, who is expected to travel to Washington soon for talks. He did not give a detailed list of the Israeli concerns.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Thursday in Brussels, Belgium, that the peace plan would be presented "as is" when the new Palestinian Cabinet was in place. However, he said, the plan would not be imposed on the two sides. "They'll have an opportunity to comment on it and to talk to each other about it," Powell said.

The new Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, was appointed last month and has been holding talks on forming a new government. He is expected to present a plan for a Cabinet in the next few weeks.

Weisglass said Israel was ready to hold talks with Abbas, widely known as Abu Mazen.

"We will negotiate with Abu Mazen when he announces his government," Weisglass said, "and if he is moving in the right direction, Israel will reply immediately by moving in the same direction, so that his success will also be ours."

The plan envisions a provisional Palestinian state as early as this year and a full-fledged Palestinian state and a final peace agreement by 2005.

Under the plan, Palestinians are to end violence against Israel and put democratic changes in place. Israel is to freeze the building of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip and to pull back troops in those areas.

Yesterday, two gunmen reached a gate of the West Bank settlement Kiryat Arba and tried to cut through it, said settler spokesman Yehoshua Mor Yosef. A security guard fired at the two men, sparking a gunbattle. One of the gunmen was killed, and the second fled, Yosef said. There is a heavy military presence in and around Kiryat Arba, which is considered a hard-line settlement and has often been the target of Palestinian attacks.

Also yesterday, Israeli troops in an armored personnel carrier allegedly shot Bryan Avery, 24, of Albuquerque, N.M., in the face, said Tobias Karlsson, 30, also a member of the Palestinian-backed International Solidarity Movement.

Activists in the group work in the West Bank and Gaza as human shields, often placing themselves between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The army said it had fired at gunmen but was not aware of shooting anyone. Karlsson, who is from Sweden, said he did not see any gunmen at the scene.

An American member of the group, Rachel Corrie, 23, was killed March 16 in the Gaza Strip while trying to stop an Israeli military bulldozer from demolishing a Palestinian home.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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