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Peace process in limbo after Barak calls 'timeout'
'Let him go to hell,' Arafat says
CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Mike Hanna, CNN Cairo Bureau Chief Ben Wedeman, CNN Beirut Bureau Chief Brent Sadler, CNN White House Correspondent Kelly Wallace, and CNN Correspondents Jerrold Kessel, Fionnuala Sweeney and Rula Amin contributed to this report.
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli-Palestinian peace process started the week in limbo after Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak called a "timeout" to reassess his government's peace efforts after rejecting the "language of threats" which he said emerged from the Arab League emergency summit in Cairo.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat said he "expected this" from Barak and indicated he had no intention of giving up his quest for Palestinian statehood.
"Our people [are] continuing the road to Jerusalem, the capital of our independent Palestinian state," Arafat said. "To accept or not to accept it, let him go to hell."
The Arab summit's final declaration denounced Israel, calling for a United Nations-led "war crimes tribunal" to try Israelis who the communique said were responsible for the recent violence.
However, the summit declaration stopped short of calling on Arab nations to sever ties with Israel, leaving that decision up to each Arab League country.
Participants in the emergency Arab summit lashed out at Israel for what they said was unjustified aggression, while they fully supported Palestinian resistance.
The participants also laid out a detailed plan for punitive diplomatic action. States with low-level economic or political ties to Israel -- such as Tunisia -- either will cut them off or review their relations.
But the summit's declaration fell far short of the demands of street demonstrators and militant leaders across the Arab world, who had called for measures ranging from a boycott of Israel to an all-out war.
"There are no more relations to be opened until they go back to the right path of peace," said Amr Moussa, the Egyptian foreign minister.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the summit host, said, "We live in a world in which all realize the suffering is not confined to one party and the flames of this conflict extend to all."
Libya's delegation walked out of the meeting Saturday, expressing disgust that Arab ties with Israel were being left largely intact.
The failure of the Arab leaders to take more stringent steps against Israel was condemned on the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank where Palestinians had been hoping for a clear, unequivocal statement backing their Intifada (uprising).
But Barak expressed outrage: "Israel rejects out of hand the language of threats that came out of the summit, and condemns the call for the continuation of violence which was implicit in the decisions," he said at the opening of Sunday's Israeli Cabinet meeting.
"We call on the Palestinians to respect their commitments to end the violence, to end the incitement and to allow a chance for calm and mutual coexistence, before continued violence leads to a deterioration -- the results of which cannot be foreseen," he added.
Palestinians suspicious of Barak's motives
But some Palestinian leaders interpreted Barak's "timeout" as confirmation of their long-held suspicions about the Israeli prime minister's agenda.
The Palestinian chief of security, Muhammed Dahlan, said, "From the beginning, we believed Barak doesn't want peace. This decision of his has killed whatever had been left of the peace process ... which should be in the Israeli interest, not only a Palestinian one."
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Hanan Ashwari said, "It's clear Israel has suspended the peace process, despite the so-called moderation of the Arab world, because it has no interest in peace."
Other Palestinian leaders criticized Barak for unilaterally suspending the peace process and the impact they believed his announcement would have on the continuing violence.
Palestinian Cabinet Minister Yasser Abed Rabbu said, "He didn't have the right to do that, and, in spite of the peaceful message from the Arab summit ... his response was negative; this will only add more fuel to the situation."
Barak's announcement was seized on by the leader of the militant Islamic movement Hamas, Mahmoud Al-zahar, who said, "Hamas said from the beginning Israelis are not willing to make real peace. ... Now that was proved after nine years. ... The question is how to organize our activities against the occupation."
Senior Barak advisor, Gilad Sher, however, told CNN a timeout "doesn't mean the peace process is frozen."
Sher said, "It means that we have to think about and see whether and how we continue peace negotiations with the Palestinians."
Violence continues on the streets
Meanwhile, on the streets, the violence continued. Four Palestinians were killed Sunday in scattered clashes in the region, including a 14-year-old boy killed in fighting in Gaza.
Residents in Gilo, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, said they had been fired upon by residents in an adjacent Arab neighborhood.
Israeli security forces fired machine guns mounted on tanks into the Arab neighborhood, Beit Jala, and warned residents there to evacuate.
The death toll from three weeks of fighting is now more than 120; all but nine of the dead are Palestinians or Israeli Arabs.
Sharon waits in the wings
The prime minister's office denied that the timing of the "timeout" was in any way connected to talks with the Likud party about joining Barak's minority government.
Barak lost his parliamentary majority in July, when religious parties left his ruling coalition in protest over his attendance at peace talks with Arafat in Camp David, Maryland.
Likud, and its leader Ariel Sharon, have been fierce opponents of Barak's concessions during the peace process, but Barak once again told his Cabinet on Sunday that he intends to bring the hard-line right-wing opposition into an emergency government.
"If this carries on," said Israeli political analyst David Landau, "the momentum to create what's called a government of national unity will become inexorable."
Landau said, "You talk about it and people want it. People want to feel secure and feel everybody is in the tent all huddled together."
The Israeli parliament, the Knesset, is scheduled to reconvene at the end of the month after its summer recess.
Palestinians accuse Sharon of provoking the latest wave of violence on September 28 when he visited an east Jerusalem site holy to Muslims and Jews.
Palestinians said his visit "defiled" one of the holiest shrines in the Islamic world.
Sharon has denied responsibility for the violence, accusing Palestinians of using his visit to the shrine as an excuse to fight Israeli soldiers.
A White House spokeswoman had said earlier that U.S. President Bill Clinton, who spoke with Barak by phone Sunday, intended to convey that implementing the cease-fire agreement reached in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Tuesday was the best way to "get past the ... violence."
White House Chief of Staff John Podesta said work has to be done "with both parties to meet their obligations" under the Sharm el-Sheikh agreement.
"I think you've got to deal with it on a one-step-at-a-time basis. We don't want to see a long timeout, if you will, from the peace-making process," Podesta said on CNN's "Late Edition."
More Middle East killings as Arab nations confer on crisis
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