Israel building fence along West Bank
Sharon dismisses interim Palestinian state
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat has blasted Israel's decision to begin construction of a 217-mile (350-kilometer) fence designed to shield the country from suicide bombers, calling it a fascist enterprise.
"This is a fascist, apartheid measure being done, and we do not accept it," the Jerusalem daily Ha'aretz quoted Arafat as saying. "We will continue rejecting it by all means."
Arafat made the comments while touring Ramallah, where he also blasted U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice for her comments in a newspaper article, saying she had no right to tell the Palestinians what to do.
Israel's government insists the fence -- which will stretch along the border between Israel and the West Bank -- is meant only to provide security, not to form a border.
Public pressure for such a fence has soared with every Palestinian suicide bombing in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, however, only reluctantly authorized this first phase of the project; Israeli right-wingers worry the fence establishes a physical border and will end any Israeli claims to settlements.
Eventually, the barrier will be a combination of fences, walls, ditches, patrol roads and electronic surveillance devices. The first 68 miles (110 kilometers) of the $200 million project is scheduled to be completed within a year.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat said the fence will just complicate the situation. "Good fences make good neighbors, bad fences make bad neighbors ... This will deprive Palestinians of any hope whatsoever," he said.
On Monday, a Bush administration spokesman struck a delicate balance, trying not to criticize Israel's decision to build the fence but making it clear the administration did not necessarily think that it is a "constructive" step.
"Israel has a right to defend herself," said Scott McClellan, White House deputy press secretary. "But I'll reiterate it's important to keep in mind the consequences of the actions they take."
Arafat: We don't take orders
In an article published Saturday in the San Jose (California) Mercury News, Rice said President Bush's vision of a Palestinian state should not be based on Arafat's Palestinian Authority.
"Frankly, the Palestinian Authority, which is corrupt and cavorts with terror ... is not the basis for a Palestinian state moving forward,'' Rice told the Mercury News editorial board.
Rice said that without creating democratic institutions that include factions now excluded by Arafat's rule, there is not much hope for an eventual peace settlement with Israel.
But Arafat angrily said the Palestinians don't take orders.
"We are doing what we see as good for our people and we do not accept any orders from anyone," Arafat said.
Meanwhile, Sharon is rejecting the idea of an interim or provisional Palestinian state, saying Palestinians must first halt acts of terrorism against Israelis and substantially reform the Palestinian Authority -- including scheduling general elections.
On Friday, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres endorsed the possibility of an interim Palestinian state. The White House has said that Bush is considering a provisional Palestinian state as part of a new statement on the Middle East, but has not made a decision.
McClellan, the White House deputy press secretary, said Monday that Bush would lay out his plan to bring about Palestinian statehood and deal with Israel's security concerns in the "very near future." Previously, aides have said in the "near future."
"It's important for all parties to take constructive steps to help move this towards two states living side by side in peace," McClellan said Monday, when asked about Sharon's declaration that the "conditions are not ripe" for a provisional Palestinian state.
Sharon's rejection of an interim Palestinian state brought harsh criticism from Palestinian negotiator Erakat.
"He [Sharon] is not interested in peace, and he is not a man of peace," Erakat said. "I am not surprised that ... he is trying to pre-empt President Bush's ideas before he even introduces them."
In a related development, Bush signed a six-month waiver continuing U.S. policy, suspending a 1995 law which requires the United States to move its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the White House said.
The Bush administration, like the Clinton administration, believes the embassy should not be moved until the Isrealis and Palestinians reach a settlement on the final status of Jerusalem.
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades member killed
Israeli troops Monday shot and killed a member of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades who they accused of recruiting suicide bombers and directing their attacks.
Palestinian security sources said Walid Subeih, 29, was killed by heavy machine gun fire from Israeli troops as he stood at the entrance of the village of Al-Hader near Bethlehem.
Israeli military sources confirmed that Subeih was killed by Israeli troops. The sources said Israel had intercepted three suicide bombers who said they had been recruited by Subeih.
The sources said Subeih recently had directed a number of suicide attacks. Early in the Al Aqsa Intifada, the sources said, Subeih was involved in a number of shooting attacks against Israeli soldiers.
Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades is a military offshoot of Yasser Arafat's Fatah movement that has carried out numerous attacks against military targets and civilians in Israel and in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza. In March 2002, the U.S. State Department designated it as a foreign terrorist organization.
Meanwhile, a Palestinian suicide bomber on Monday set off an explosive device close to an Israeli border patrol in northern Israel, killing only himself, police said. There were no injuries.
According to border police, a patrol in an armored jeep identified a suspicious person near the Bahan Kibbutz about 14 kilometers (8.5 miles) east of Hadera, which is about 40 kilometers (24 miles) north of Tel Aviv. When police approached, the bomber detonated himself, damaging the military vehicle.
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