A long-awaited U.S.-backed peace plan for the Middle East was published last night.
Only hours after the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas was sworn in, he and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were given copies of the so-called "road map" to peace.
Washington had demanded Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat be replaced with Abbas before Washington would re-start the peace process.
The "road-map" was drawn up the U.S., Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.
Under the plan, the Palestinians are required to combat violence against Israelis, adopt a new constitution, and recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist in peace and security. Israel must withdraw from the Palestinian areas it has occupied since September 2000, end curfews and roadblocks, halt the expansion of Jewish settlements and dismantle illegal outposts, stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and confiscation of land, and commit to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
A Palestinian state would be established within 3 years.
The Palestinians say both sides must meet their commitments in parallel by the deadline of June 2003, and most foreign countries agree. But the Israeli government is insisting that Palestinians meet the test of "combating terror" before Israel is required to do anything.
The London Guardian reports the Israelis also want a say in judging the Palestinian efforts and have threatened to abandon the road map entirely if they do not get their way. The "quartet" of foreign players behind the process fear that could effectively hand a veto to the Israelis or to any suicide bomber.
Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell is planning to travel Israel and the occupied territories next week to lobby for the roadmap.
Hours after the publication of the peace plan, Israeli troops killed 8 Palestinians in Gaza City, including a two-year-old toddler and two teenagers. The AFP is reporting the toddler was shot in the head.
60 Israeli tanks, armored troop carriers and helicopters invaded the city and attacked an apartment building housing dozens of people. Israeli military sources say they are after a senior Hamas leader, that seven soldiers have been injured, and that a pitched battle is still going on. Israeli helicopters have begun shelling the area, and many people are trapped inside. The AFP reached a woman trapped in the building, who reported that women, children, and elderly people are screaming and crying.
In the West Bank, Israeli soldiers shot dead two other Palestinians.
And, it has emerged that a suicide bomber and his accomplice who killed three people and injured scores at a Tel Aviv bar yesterday may be British. Israeli officials say they carried British passports and traveled to Israel specifically to carry out the suicide mission.
- Ali Abunimah, founder of the Electronic Intifada.
- Rachel Murov, spokesperson for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.