The Dutch and German foreign ministers Bernard Bot and Joschka Ficher asked Israel to end its attempts to isolate Palestinian President Yasser Arafat.

Israeli foreign minister Silvan Shalom rejected their demand, confirming that Israel is sticking to its policy of isolating Arafat.

Bot, who heads the European Council of Foreign Ministers, told Shalom in their last week meeting in Maastricht that isolating Arafat was a mistake, and only worked to strengthen him.

Shalom responded that it is European officials’ ‘pilgrimages’ to Arafat that strengthen him.

A week ago, Fischer told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that Israel needs Arafat to be able to implement the disengagement plan, stressing that no one else on the Palestinian side can help, but Arafat.

Sharon ‘s bureau head Dov Weisglass responded that peace will have to wait until Arafat “disappears”.