EGYPT AND JORDAN REJECT ISRAEL’S DEMANDS – to establish new borders

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Egypt and Jordan on Sunday announced their rejection of the Israeli government’s unilateral plan to demarcate the borders of the Jewish state inside the Palestinian territories, which Tel Aviv occupied in 1967, as Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas urged Arab states to block Israel’s plan.

Arriving from Cairo, Abbas on Sunday met with Jordan’s King Abdullah II in Amman following talks with the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday.

‘We are working to strengthen our ties with our Arab neighbours to get (Israeli Prime Minister Ehud) Olmert’s plan off the table and to return to the (Quartet-drafted and UN-adopted) Road Map as a basis for negotiations and dialogue,’ he said after talks with the Jordanian monarch.

Abbas said he was trying to ‘stop the Israeli military escalation’ against the Palestinian people, which claimed 16 Palestinian civilian lives last week, and hoped a ‘mechanism could soon be reached, setting the stage for Palestinian-Israeli understanding for establishing calm’.

In his talks with Abbas, Abdullah II said responsibility rested on the international community to ‘ensure the flow of international assistance to the Palestinian Territories to prevent a humanitarian crisis there.’

The ‘Quartet’ of the United States, Russia, the United Nations and the European Union agreed in a statement on Saturday to channel aid to cash-starved Palestinians for health care, utilities and social services, while continuing a boycott of the Palestinian government of Prime Minister Ismail Haniyah.

President Abbas described as ‘inadequate’ and ‘insufficient’ the EU proposed mechanism by-passing the Palestinian government to channel international aid direct to the Palestinian people, indicating the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was not consulted.

Abbas also vowed to continue a 16-month-old cease-fire with Israel and denied that the ruling Hamas movement ever broke it, after meeting on Saturday with Egyptian President Mubarak.

Abbas added that the movement’s violation of the truce last week was minor and that the anti-occupation group, which holds a majority in the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), has not discarded the Hudna (truce).

‘Hamas did not break the truce, although some violations have happened, due to the (Israeli) killing of the family (of seven on a Gaza beach on June 9),’ he told reporters.

President Mubarak and King Abdullah met on Sunday afternoon at Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, and released a joint statement expressing their objection to ‘unilateral Israeli steps.’

‘Every step should be carried out through direct negotiations with the Palestinian side and in accordance with the Road Map, which leads to a sustainable Palestinian state alongside Israel,’ the Jordanian and Egyptian leaders said.

Abdullah II stressed the importance of ‘ceasing military escalation, in order to have calm prevail between Palestinians and Israelis and to create a suitable climate for building confidence between both sides and ensure a swift return to the negotiating table,’ the statement said.

Israeli premier Olmert’s ‘convergence’ plan, renamed later the ‘realignment’ plan, is facing tough international pressure as most countries are voicing the need to return to negotiations with the PNA and not make unilateral moves such as last summer’s disengagement from Gaza Strip, commented the Palestine Media Centre

In a statement issued following Olmert’s recent visits to England and France, European Union officials said the EU ‘will not recognize any change to the pre-1967 border other than those agreed by both sides’.

The statement essentially rejected the notion of Israel setting its permanent borders by itself through ‘realignment’ if no Palestinian peace partner emerges in the PNA.

Olmert has still not divulged any details of the plan such as where the exact borders will be but has claimed Israel will withdraw from up to 90 per cent of the land it occupied in 1967.

Once Israel sets the border, future final-status talks with the Palestinians would include the sharing of water, electricity and sewage between Israel and a Palestinian state, according to Olmert.

Final status talks on a two-state solution is meant also to provide solution for the Palestinian refugees in the Palestinian state, the Israeli Foreign Minister said on June 14.

‘The international community must make it clear to the Palestinians that their demand for a solution to the refugee problem can only be raised in the context of an independent Palestinian state, just as Israel is the home of the Jewish people and by its very creation solved the Jewish refugee problem,’ Tzippy Livni told a special envoy from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Also on Sunday, the Israeli Supreme Court rejected two challenges to the route of the West Bank separation barrier in and around east Jerusalem, allowing construction to proceed as planned.

In both cases, Palestinians argued that the wall would be built on private land and separate them from their ‘centre of life’ in Jerusalem.

In one of the cases, the barrier would be built on a cemetery still in use by one of the villages, according to court documents.

Last week, the Supreme Court ordered Israel to re-route a five-km section of the barrier near the Palestinian West Bank town of Qalqiliya because of hardships it imposes on Palestinians.

On Sunday, the court ruled in favour of the government, which argued that security needs outweighed humanitarian concerns. The government claimed that residents could still enter the city through passages near their neighbourhoods.

The cases were filed separately by residents of A-Sheikh and Kfar Anata, a town on the northern outskirts of Jerusalem.

The court decisions reflect Israel’s goal of strengthening its hold on occupied east Jerusalem, said Daniela Yanai, a lawyer at Ir Amim, an Israeli advocacy group that deals with Jerusalem issues.

‘On the one hand you have Israel expanding its land, but on the other hand pushing Jerusalem residents away toward the West Bank,’ she said.

Israel claims it needs the barrier to keep Palestinian suicide bombers out of the country.

But Palestinians say the route cuts into the West Bank in several places, amounting to an Israeli annexation of land.

The route around Jerusalem is especially contentious because Israel wants all of Jerusalem for its capital.

The Palestinians view east Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 war, as the capital of its state.

Meanwhile, Israel’s defence ministry revealed that about half of the 760-km barrier along and in the West Bank has been built, and it expects to complete work in 2008, depending on the results of ongoing court challenges.

The final route of the structure has become more significant since Israeli premier Olmert said earlier this year that the Separation Wall would be the basis for Israel’s border with the West Bank.

Olmert has said he will impose a border in which Israel annexe about temper cent of the West Bank if peace talks fail.