Israel's Foreign Minister Heads To Washington To Discuss Ceasefire

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:09 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - A Palestinian was killed and another wounded by a bomb allegedly primed to harm Israelis in the Gaza Strip on Monday, as Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres headed for the U.S. for talks on a possible Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire agreement.

Earlier, Shimon Peres held consultations with Egyptian and Jordanian leaders on a joint plan put forward by the two Arab countries to end the violence that has shaken the region since last September.

PA Chairman Yasser Arafat is due to meet on Monday evening with leaders of his Fatah organization to discuss the Egyptian-Jordanian proposal.

But one Fatah leader, Ziad Abu Ayan, already has said the faction had no intention of stopping the Palestinian uprising (intifada), no matter what agreement may be reached as a result of the current diplomatic efforts. Israeli security sources are warning the country to expect an escalation in the violence.

"We are not going to stop the intifada," Abu Ayan said in a radio interview. It was launched to end the "occupation" and to stop the building of Jewish settlement in the disputed territories, he said, and would not stop until those goals had been reached.

In his weekend meetings with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordanian King Abdullah, Peres outlined Israel's reservations to the proposed ceasefire agreement while the campaign of terrorism continued.

Peres is due to meet U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Monday to discuss the initiative. He is set to hold talks with President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell later in the week.

The plan calls for a one-month ceasefire, followed by a resumption of negotiations on a permanent settlement if the quiet holds.

A statement by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's office reiterated that Israel would "not hold any negotiations under fire, and stressed that there must be a total halt to terrorism in all its forms."

Some confusion was created after Peres' 90-minute meeting with the Egyptians, when Mubarak announced that the two sides had reached a ceasefire agreement.

Peres clarified the remark and said that although they agreed on "how to handle the situation," nothing had been agreed upon yet. He had gone to Egypt bearing the message that Israel was interested in returning to the negotiating table but not under fire, he stressed.

Meanwhile, U.S.-arranged security talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority have continued, but without any reports of progress from either side.

Senior Israeli security officials accused the PA of continuing with the talks in order to curry favor with Washington and ensure an invitation for Arafat to the White House.

The president has already hosted the Israeli prime minister and three Arab leaders but has made it clear he will invite Arafat to Washington only after the violence in the region stops.

According to a report in the Arabic daily, Al-Quds, the U.S. sent a sharp letter to Arafat demanding he stop or at least reduce the violence.

The message, which two American diplomats delivered to Arafat in Ramallah, said the continuing violence made it difficult for Washington to pressure Sharon and dissuade him from reacting with force to Palestinian attacks, the paper said.

The U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv could not confirm the existence of a letter, but said that Arafat had been involved in tough conversations with U.S. diplomats over what needed to be done to stop the conflict.

Violence continued over the weekend and on Monday, a bomb exploded inside an Israeli commercial vehicle at a Jewish community in the Gaza Strip, killing a Palestinian and wounding another.

The Israeli army the bomb was intended to harm Israelis.

On Sunday, an alert merchant in the coastal city of Netanya discovered a large bomb before it exploded and alerted police who managed to clear the area before it went off.

In a separate incident, Hamas claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing attack near a bus transporting 40 junior high school students. The vehicle was armor-plated, and no one on the bus was injured.

Also over the weekend, an Israeli soldier was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting inside Israel. Previous such attacks during the uprising have only occurred in the disputed territories.

Arafat's Fatah organization claimed responsibility for a mortar attack Saturday on a Jewish community in the Gaza Strip that injured five Israeli teenagers.