Peace brokers are urging the Palestinian Authority to start dismantling armed militias.
But the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations stopped short of backing Israeli demands that Hamas be barred from Palestinian legislative elections unless it disarms and amends a charter calling for Israel’s destruction. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said: “There is a fundamental contradiction between armed activities and the political process. “We understand that this is a transition and I think everybody understands that this is a transitional process.” Her comments came as Israeli soldiers completed their withdrawal from four West Bank settlements evacuated last month, including Ganim. At the troops’ departure, jubilant Palestinians poured into the enclave in a repeat of scenes that followed Israel’s pullout from all 21 Gaza settlements as part of Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan. Unlike Gaza however, Israeli forces will continue to patrol the area around the abandoned enclaves. At the meeting of the international peacemakers, known as the Quartet, the Israeli prime minister was praised for carrying out the Gaza withdrawal. However the group said Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank must stop.