It is a mixture of good and worrying news for the Palestinians this morning. On the face of it, today’s pullout from Jericho by the Israeli army, beginning around lunchtime, starts the process whereby five West Bank towns revert to Palestinian control after four years of occupation. However, according to the Palestinians’ chief negotiator Nabil Sha’ath, it is not going as planned.
“They are only pulling out the checkpoint to the north between Jericho and Oja, and leaving the main one till later,” he said. “This is really a very, very slow process.
“We were promised withdrawal from five Palestinian towns and cities in the West Bank in two weeks and now it is five weeks and we are barely starting a section of Jericho”. Meanwhile in Cairo the meeting between the Palestinian president and militant groups including Hamas and Islamic Jihad which began yesterday is due to last five full days.
Mahmoud Abbas is trying to get them to agree to a year-long truce but the militants say they are not interested unless prisoners are freed. For its part, Israel says a truce is far from its top priority. What it wants is the disbanding of the militant groups, pure and simple.