Palestinians Must Translate 'Good Will' Into Action, Israel Says

By Julie Stahl | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Jerusalem ( - Progress on the U.S.-sponsored "road map" depends on the ability of the Palestinians to translate their words into deeds, an Israeli government spokesman said on Thursday.

But one day after President Bush held a tri-lateral summit with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas in the Jordanian port city of Aqaba, PA Chairman Yasser Arafat said that Sharon had offered nothing "tangible" at the summit.

The U.S. and Israel have tried to sideline Arafat, throwing their support behind Abbas, who has pledged to combat terrorism, but there are signs that Arafat is still wielding power.

Israeli and Palestinian officials were upbeat about Wednesday's summit, but both said the real test is how things work on the ground.

"The summit was a positive meeting, but it's not enough to better the situation," said Israeli government spokesman Avi Pazner.

"It all depends now on whether the Palestinians translate their goodwill into acts on the ground," Pazner said in a telephone interview.

"Our whole positive approach is based on the hope that the Palestinians will take the eradication of terrorism seriously," he said.

According to Pazner, the first step is to get rid of terrorism; and to do so, the Palestinians must take a "series of concrete steps" including arresting terrorists, bringing them to justice and collecting illegal arms.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Sha'ath told reporters in Aqaba on Wednesday that "hard work" lay ahead, but said he was "surprised" in a positive way at the statements made by Sharon.

But Arafat said on Thursday that Sharon had not offered anything "tangible" to the Palestinians. He belittled Sharon's pledge to dismantle "unauthorized" settlement outposts built in the West Bank during the last three years as insignificant.

Sharon said in his statement on Wednesday that Israel was a country was based on the rule of law and therefore "unauthorized" settlement outposts would be dismantled.

Cabinet minister Tommy Lapid, who attended the summit with Sharon, said that two steps would be taken immediately - the demolishing of the outposts and seeing "signs" that the Palestinians are taking action against terrorism.

Pazner said Arafat was obviously opposed to the summit and would "do whatever he can to thwart the process [and] do whatever he can to torpedo the whole thing."

Pazner, who has participated in negotiations with the Palestinians for years and has been to a number of summits, said he felt that yesterday's meeting was a "serious effort."

He compared Wednesday's summit to the last Middle East summit involving an American president - the one at Sharm e-Sheikh, Egypt, two-and-a-half years ago - a summit marked by "bad blood and pessimism," coming as it did just several weeks after the start of the intifadah.

The participants at that summit were former President Bill Clinton, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and PA Chairman Yasser Arafat.

Wednesday's summit featured different players- President Bush, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, PA Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and Jordan's King Abdullah II, who acted as host.

"The difference is enormous, both in tone and content," said Pazner. There was "good intention," but now it needs to be put into practice, he said.

President Bush described Wednesday's summit as a "good beginning." Speaking to reporters on his plane after leaving Jordan, Bush said that he intended keep the process going and "ride herd" on it.