Author:Lancaster, Pat

Peace on any terms is not acceptable to the Palestinians now, nor will it ever be. Too much suffering and humiliation has been endured, too many lives have been lost in the struggle for survival against the might of the Israeli military machine to settle for that. As the new Palestinian prime minister, the softly spoken Ahmed Qurei, also known as Abu Ala'a, laid down his conditions for acceptance of office, it was clear he did not come waving a white flag of surrender. With his terms he put the ball firmly back in the international arena.

Qurei, who has the endorsement of Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasser Arafat in his new post, demanded guarantees from Washington and Europe that they would force a major shift in Israel's treatment of the Palestinians before he would agree to accept the post.

Qurei has further specified that he will not crack down on Hamas and other armed groups and that he will avoid confrontation with Yasser Arafat, whose refusal to yield control of key security services prompted the resignation of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), in September.

A senior Palestinian official told the press Abu Ala'a would pursue the same softly-softly approach towards the militants as his predecessor. "He will ask the factions to accept a ceasefire," the official noted but, the spokesman went on, "He will not accept a power struggle ... he will consult with Arafat on every step and on a daily basis."

No surprise then to discover the new Prime Minister's approach found little favour in Tel Aviv or Washington.

"If Abu Ala'a is not going to learn in any constructive way from Abu Mazen's mistakes, we're going to be at a dead end very soon," commented Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Jonathan Peled.

Abu Mazen's mistakes? It seems to most of us that Abu Mazen's biggest mistake was trying to be all things to all men. By almost bending over backwards to accommodate Israel and the United States, he ostracised himself from his own people.

The turning point came when, at the June summit in Aqaba, in the presence of George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon, Abu Mazen renounced the Intifada and acknowledged...

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