Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas failed Tuesday to resolve key issues on Israel's planned Gaza withdrawal, and the Palestinian chief said he received no positive answers in a "difficult" first meeting since they agreed to a truce four months ago, reports AP
"This was a difficult meeting, and did not live up to our expectations," Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia told reporters. "In all the basic issues for which we were expecting positive responses, there were none." The Palestinians wanted Israel releasing more prisoners and also easing roadblocks and other restrictions that have crippled life in the West Bank. Sharon promised to consider freeing more prisoners if the Palestinians took steps to end violence.
But as informs Reuters, renewed tensions before the summit reduced prospects for a deal. Militants have resumed sporadic rocket and mortar salvoes at Gaza settlements, while Islamic Jihad gunmen killed a settler in a West Bank drive-by shooting on Sunday. In response, Israeli forces swept through the West Bank early Tuesday, arresting 52 suspected Islamic Jihad members in the first large crackdown since the truce, signed in February.
As Reuters remarks, symbolism underlay the summit in Jerusalem, a city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians. Palestinians want Arab East Jerusalem, captured by Israel in a 1967 war, for a future capital. Israel regards the whole city as its eternal capital.