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Israeli government accepts peace plan, acknowledges claim of Palestinian state


JERUSALEM (BP)–The Israeli government accepted a claim to Palestinian statehood May 25 when Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s cabinet approved the so-called “road map” to peace.

It marked the first time that the Israeli government officially had accepted Palestinians’ claim to statehood, The New York Times reported. The road map is sponsored by the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.

U.S. officials are trying to set up a summit involving Sharon, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President George W. Bush. The summit would focus on implementation of the peace plan.

A meeting between Bush and leaders of other Arab countries — such as Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — could precede the Israeli-Palestinian summit, The Times reported.

The White House called Israel’s action “an important step forward,” The Times said. The Israeli cabinet vote was 12-7 in favor of implementation, with four abstentions.

“It was a historic day,” cabinet minister Tsipi Livni said, according to the Associated Press. “It was not an easy vote for a right-wing coalition. Maybe it’s a sign of hope.”

Southern Baptist leaders Richard Land and Adrian Rogers recently joined more than 20 other Christian and conservative leaders in signing a letter telling Bush they have “deep concerns” about the plan, which was first outlined by Bush last year and presented officially to Israel and the Palestinians in April.

Land is president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission; Rogers pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Cordova, Tenn., and a three-time former Southern Baptist Convention president.

“[I]t would be morally reprehensible for the United States to be ‘evenhanded’ between democratic Israel, a reliable friend and ally that shares our values, and the terrorist infested Palestinian infrastructure that refuses to accept the right of Israel to exist at all,” the May 19 letter said. Surveys “show at least half of the Palestinian people support the current terrorist intifada against Israel,” the letter said. “In view of this reality, the ‘road map’ could lead to a disaster.”

The intifada is the uprising, often violent, by Palestinians against Israeli rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The “road map” calls for a Palestinian state with temporary borders this year and a permanent state in 2005. It requires of the Palestinians an immediate cessation of violence against Israel, the dismantling of terrorist organizations and the recognition of Israel’s right to exist in peace.

Of Israel, it requires the destruction of Jewish settlements constructed in the West Bank since March 2001 and the freezing of all settlement activity, an end to attacks on Palestinians and the destruction of their homes, and withdrawal to the borders in place before Israel gained new territories in the 1967 war. Critics of the plan also say it would result in the division of Jerusalem between the Palestinians and Israelis.
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