Israel, Palestinians Exchange Accusations Over Peace Plan

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Israeli leaders said they would put the brakes on the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace until Palestinian police disarm violent groups, warning that militants are using a cease-fire to rearm. Palestinians, however, say Israel (search) is the one violating the plan.

At a meeting of the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday, the military chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Moshe Yaalon, said that while the Palestinian public was opposed to terror attacks on Israelis and wanted a six-week-old cease-fire to continue, Palestinian security forces were doing little to stop attacks, according to an official who briefed reporters on condition of anonymity.

"The Palestinian Authority must dismantle the terrorist infrastructure -- period," the official quoted Yaalon as saying.

Palestinian legislator Saeb Erekat said it was Israel, rather than the Palestinians, which was failing to live up to its commitments under the "road map," which calls for Palestinian statehood (search) by 2005.

"In accordance with the road map, what should be dismantled is the Israeli occupation and the Israeli settlements," Erekat told The Associated Press.

The peace plan is a three-stage program. In the first phase the Palestinians are to dismantle "terrorist capabilities and infrastructure (including) confiscation of illegal weapons."

Israel is to commit to "immediately dismantle" about 100 unauthorized settlement outposts established in the West Bank since 2001. It also is to take "all necessary steps to help normalize Palestinian life" and to withdraw "progressively" from Palestinian autonomous zones occupied since fighting between the two sides erupted in September 2000.

About a dozen outposts have so far been taken down, but a similar number have gone back up. Also, some roadblocks have been removed, but dozens remain.

The official said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon (search) made it clear during the Cabinet meeting that there can be "no progress toward a Palestinian state without full implementation of their obligations."

The official said Yaalon told ministers that the United States was allowing Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas (search) breathing space in disarming the militant groups -- but the outcome was that the militants were getting time to rearm and regroup.

Abbas refuses to order a crackdown, fearing a civil war. Also, Palestinians say that if Abbas is successful in stopping violence through agreements, like the truce, Israel should have no complaints.

However, in radio interviews, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Palestinian "extremist groups" were using the lull to train their men and dig tunnels in the Gaza Strip for smuggling arms in from neighboring Egypt.

The official said Yaalon told the Cabinet that on some occasions, when the army discovered the Gaza end of border tunnels and blew them up, smoke was seen coming out of the other end -- inside Egyptian army posts. He said he believed this was because individual Egyptian soldiers had been bribed, and it was not part of official Egyptian policy.