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Abbas and Sharon Quarrel Again

Palestinians are very dissatisfied with the list of prisoners to be released from Israeli jails

The regulation of the Arab-Israeli conflict has become very problematic again. Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas refused to have a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The meeting failed because of the Palestine's discontent with the list of prisoners that Israel was going to release from its jails.

It was originally supposed to release 443 Palestinian nationals from Israeli prisons prior to the meeting between Abbas and Sharon. However, Palestinian officials believe, the list did not comply with Palestine's hopes at all. However, most of the prisoners to be released have already finished their sentences. In addition, the list of prisoners includes just criminals or the people that have been jailed for violating administrative laws - Israel is not going to release members of Palestinian organization (such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad, for example).

RIA Novosti news agency reported, the Israeli government strongly refused to release Palestinian citizens who were implicated in terrorist activities or had links with terrorist groups, i.e. the "criminals, who have the Jewish blood on their hands."

The peace process is becoming rather strange - with the help of common criminals. In this case, Palestinians would not probably mind them spending more time in Israeli jails. Palestinian Authority president Yasser Arafat stated, Israelis were going to release 400 people, although they had recently arrested more than 800. Spokespeople for Palestinian radical organizations want Israel to release all prisoners, because they are not terrorists, but "prisoners of war."

It goes without saying, Mahmoud Abbas could not venture such a luxury as a meeting with Ariel Sharon. The Palestinian prime minister cannot ignore Arafat's and radicals' opinions - that would be equal to a political suicide under current conditions. Abbas will probably not be overcautious in the future, when his powers grow stronger, but it is better for him not to take risks so far. Furthermore, Palestinians have the advantage at present: Washington has expressed its dissatisfaction with the Israeli government's actions. The American administration is extremely unhappy with the building of the defensive wall. Yasser Arafat says, the wall will make Palestine become a ghetto.

The US State Department has recently suggested cutting loans to Israel, although the suggestion is to be approved by the American president. Will George W. Bush make such a step? It would be a rather serious blow on the US-Israeli relationship. Bush has repeatedly expressed his oppostion to ejecting the wall.

Nevertheless, it is too early to say that the current situation is favorable to Palestinians. They have merely taken a small tactic advantage of Israelis. Will they manage to use it? How will America  react to it? The further development of the dialogue between Israel and Palestine depends on the USA now.

On the photo: Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas

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