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An Unquiet Peace By: David Bedein
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, February 14, 2005

Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, February 9th, 2005-Avi Pazner, acting in his capacity as press spokesman for the Prime Minister of Israel said, "They will declare quiet. They will not sign anything. Sharon will not sign anything. The important thing is the 'quiet'." He said this to more than 100 reporters who got off the plane at Sharm El Sheikh in the Sinai Peninsula to cover the summit between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas (a.k.a. Abu Mazen), Jordanian King Abudullah and Egypt's President Mubarak.

"At this summit, we will see calls for a cessation to violence" repeated Gideon Meir, a spokesman from the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. "There will be no cease-fire proclaimed here today." This was told to reporters as they arrived at an improvised press center established in small villas and tents next to the Movenpick Hotel conference center at Sharm El Sheikh.

In other words, the consistent message in what the official Israeli government spokespeople told the media was a generalized call for an end to violence. However, the summit participants held no press conference so that reporters could ask the principals at the summit what they meant by an end to violence. Journalists were allowed follow the summit through video monitors only.

During the many hours reporters waited in the press center for a press statement to be released, Israeli officials were quick to point out that the Israeli government expected Abbas to dissolve terrorist organizations, to collect all their weapons, and to arrest any and all wanted terrorists for which Israel was prepared to make sweeping humanitarian gestures by freeing more than 500 Palestinians who had been convicted in Israeli courts of law of murder or attempted murder.

And what if Abbas does not deliver on his promises? Israeli government spokespeople at Sharm could not answer that question.

Israeli government officials were quick to say that Abbas has not arrested or disarmed one single Palestinian terrorist since his election, which took place exactly one month before the Sharm summit and they noted that Abbas had only ordered the apprehension and release of terrorists after their arrest.

On the other hand, Israeli government officials in Sharm did report to the press that there had been a "reduction in Palestinian incitement" in the official Palestinian media. Indeed, on the previous Sunday, February 8th, Israeli Foreign Minister Sylvan Shalom told the Israeli cabinet that there had even been a "reduction of incitement" in the Friday mosque speeches that were broadcast and telecast on the airwaves of the "Voice of Palestine" network of the Palestinian Authority, which is under the direct control of Palestinian leader Abbas.

At the summit, I showed officials of the Israel Foreign Ministry and Israel Prime Minister the text of the mosque speeches from the previous Friday, as reviewed by Dr. Michael Widlanski, who holds his PHD on the subject of the official media of the Palestinian Authority electronic media.

Israeli government officials were surprised when they perused these texts of Friday's official Palestinian Authority mosque speeches, which called for the violent liberation of all of Palestine, once again - this time under the aegis of the new Palestinian leader.

Israeli officials also did not know that the Fateh organization, also under the leadership of Abbas, had issued a written statement the day before the summit which limited their call for to an end to violence to civilians who live within Israel's pre-1967 lines, meaning that anyone could be killed in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem, or that anyone who dons an IDF uniform in a Tel Aviv bus or coffee shop was fair play for murder.

Nor did these officials know that the official web site of the Palestinian Authority, on the day of the summit, continued to showed cartoons of Prime Minister Sharon eating little Palestinian Arab children for breakfast.

Before the Sharm summit, I interviewed the expert retained by the Israeli government to monitor incitement in the Palestinian Authority. That expert indicated that he was not being given any administrative framework within which to operate, and that the Israel Ministry of Defense, which was supposed to be supplying him with raw material on Palestinian incitement was simply refusing to share information at this time with the Israeli government officials who are supposed to report about the state of incitement to the media.

After Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz also issued a statement that there had been a "reduction in Palestinian incitement", I dispatched the text of the mosque speech from Friday and the latest material from ABU MAZEN WATCH to his office, to which our news agency received no response.

Meanwhile, Israeli government officials at the Sharm summit were asked about the legal ramifications of what it meant to free those convicted of murder or attempted murder.

I showed government officials pictures and descriptions of 25 Israelis murdered over the past two years by convicts who were released by the Israeli government as a gesture of good will, along with lists of more than 1000 Palestinian terrorists who had been freed from Israeli jails in political deals over the past 11 years and had returned to terrorist activity.

I asked if the Israeli government would bear criminal responsibility, if any of the convicts to be released as part of this new deal were then to perform acts of murder.

But the Israel Foreign Ministry officials referred questions of this nature to the officials of the Israeli Prime Minister, who, in turn, referred such questions back to officials of the Foreign Ministry.

It turned out that the Israeli government retained no legal personnel at the summit, and no Israeli government official would relate to either the moral or legal implications of amnesty for convicted terrorists.

While no Israeli government ministers besides the Prime Minister were present at the Sharm summit, five Palestinian ministers were present. Two of the Palestinian ministers fielded questions to the press - Saed Erekat and Nabil Shaath - both indicating that they would not settle for anything less than the unconditional release of Palestinian Arabs who presently sit in Israeli prisons.

Meanwhile the American press touted President Bush's request for an additional $350 million dollars for the Palestinian Authority despite the fact that it won't even stop its media calls for killing Israelis.

And despite repeated statements of all Israeli government officials on tape and on the record that no ceasefire had been agreed to in Sharm, the public relations firm that works with the Prime Minister of Israel reported to every possible media outlet that a ceasefire had been achieved.

David Bedein, author of the forthcoming book, "Swimming Against the Mainstream", has run the Israel Resource News Agency. www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com, since 1987, at the Beit Agron Press Center in Jerusalem, where he also heads the Center for Near East Policy Research and serves as the Middle East correspondent for the Philadelphia Bulletin, www.thebulletin.us.

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