The hawkish Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said in an interview published yesterday that for Israel, the 1993 Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians no longer exist. Speaking to the Maâ€™ariv daily to mark the Jewish New Year, Sharon said the same fate had befallen the offers made by his predecessor Ehud Barak at talks in Camp David in the United States and Taba in Egypt in 2000.
â€œOslo doesnâ€™t exist any more, Camp David doesnâ€™t exist any more, neither does Taba. We will not return to these places,â€ he told the Israeli daily. â€œReal damage only occurs when it is impossible to go back. But this is not the case… It is not because of the wisdom of the Jews, but solely because of the bad plans the Palestinians made,â€ he said.
â€œSince the beginning, (Palestinian President) Yasser Arafatâ€™s aim has been to bring about the end of Israel. There were some naive people, or people who wanted to be led on, or made wrong assessments,â€ Sharon said.
â€œThe problem is more fundamental than terrorism. It stems from the Arab and Palestinian refusal to recognize the Jewish peopleâ€™s right to exist in their state and their homeland.â€ He also played down diplomatic efforts by the Israeli left to revive political negotiations for peace.
â€œThere are all sorts of people who have contacts, sign all sorts of papers, travel to Egypt. But, in line with the Americans, they know very exactly that in Israel there is a government of national unity and there is only one prime minister,â€ Sharon added.
In another interview with the daily Yedioth Aharonot, Sharon said â€œArafat will not manage to finish me off… His existence must simply be ignored.â€
Sharonâ€™s published comments drew swift rebuke from Arafatâ€™s top aide, Nabil Abu Rudeina. â€œSharonâ€™s words will only strengthen the state of paralysis and political stagnation which dominate the region and drag the region into more tensions,â€ he told reporters. He added that if Sharon â€œdoes not implement what remains of the Oslo accords and the Taba and Camp David arrangements, Israel will lead the whole region into a deadlock.
Almost all the autonomous towns in the West Bank have been reoccupied in recent months by Israeli forces after Palestinian suicide bombings, with no sign of the army leaving. The invasions have also left the Palestinian Authority, the government of the autonomous zones, on its knees and barely functioning.
Sharon also ruled out any immediate pullback of his forces occupying Palestinian self-rule areas of Hebron, as proposed in a stalled security cooperation plan with the PA. An Israeli pullback from the southern West Bank city â€œis not on the agendaâ€ Sharon said in an interview with Israeli public radio.