Abbas urges Arab nations to block Israel's border plan
Leader presses for US-backed Palestinian state
AMMAN, Jordan -- The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, said yesterday he was rallying Arab nations to block Israel's plan to unilaterally redraw its borders and instead support the US-backed proposal envisioning a Palestinian state.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert of Israel has proposed drawing a West Bank border if negotiations with the Palestinians fail. Arabs, including Palestinians, fear the plan would alienate Palestinian towns and increase hardship there -- driving many to neighboring Arab states, including Jordan.
Olmert, however, assured King Abdullah II during a June 8 visit to Amman that he would seek a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians and meet soon with Abbas.
``We are working now and consolidating our contacts with Arab countries to distance Olmert's plan from the table and solidify the `road map' as a basis for negotiations and dialogue," Abbas said after meeting Abdullah.
The so-called ``road map" is a Mideast peace plan approved by the United States, United Nations, European Union, and Russia -- known as the Quartet. It calls for an end to Palestinian-Israeli violence and for an independent Palestinian state alongside Israel.
In Israel, Foreign Ministry spokesman Mark Regev said yesterday his country ``wants to move forward with the Palestinians on the `road map.' "
But he added the ``problem today is that you have a Palestinian government that says `no' to the `road map,' `no' to peace, and `no' to reconciliation."
He was referring to the government led by the Islamic militant group Hamas, which opposes the existence of Israel and has killed hundreds of Israelis in suicide bombings.
Abbas said he was trying to ``stop the Israeli military escalation" and violence in the Palestinian territories, and he hoped a ``mechanism could be soon be reached, setting the stage for Palestinian-Israeli understanding for establishing calm."
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, the Israeli Supreme Court yesterday rejected two efforts to change the route of the West Bank separation barrier in and around East Jerusalem.
In both cases, Palestinian residents argued that the barrier would be built on private land and cut them off from their ``center of life" in Jerusalem. One argued that part of the barrier would be built on a cemetery still used by one of the villages, according to court documents.
The court ruled for the government, which argued that the security needs of the barrier outweighed humanitarian concerns. The government argued that residents could still enter the city through passages near their neighborhoods.
Israel says it needs the barrier to keep Palestinian suicide bombers and other attackers out of the country.
But Palestinians say the route juts into the West Bank in several places, amounting to an Israeli seizure of land the Palestinians claim for a future state.
The final route of the structure has become more significant since Olmert said earlier this year that the barrier would the basis for Israel's border with the West Bank. Olmert has said he will impose a border in which Israel would keep about 10 percent of the West Bank if peace talks fail.