Israel decided, on Wednesday evening,  to delay the implementation of the U.S brokered deal allowing bus convoys to move between Gaza and the West Bank until next week, and decided to set criteria for Palestinian using them, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said.
Mofaz decided to delay the start of the bus convoys, and said that he will convene, on Thursday, with security chiefs to decide a criteria for Palestinians could using the convoys.
 
A source at the Israeli government said that the criteria will be according to age, and past affiliation with resistance factions, and that Israel has the right to reject and veto certain Palestinian residents using the convoys.   
 
Palestinian Chief Negotiator, Dr. Saeb Erekat, slammed that Israeli decision and said that he does not see any reason for this delay, especially since Israel will have its screening and security.
 
Meanwhile, Stewart Tuttle, U.S embassy spokesperson made no immediate comment on the Israeli decision, but said that the United States want to see the bus convoys up and running.  
 
“We would like to have everything implemented as planned”, Tuttle said, “If this does not happen, we will do everything possible to achieve it as soon as possible”.  
 
Welch: “Bus convoys to begin Thursday”
Saed bannoura-IMEMC & Agencies – Wednesday, 14 December 2005, 19:32
 
David Welch, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, said on Wednesday, that bus convoy traffic between Gaza and the West Bank will begin on Thursday as planned.
 
The statements of Welch came in a speech to a conference of donors to the Palestinian Authority.
 
Welch added that the United States expect the Palestinians and Israel to implement all of the aspects of the deal without any delays, and that the U.S administration will “help them to do so.
 
Also, Welch added that the truck traffic deal will begin as planned on January 15, 2006, since it is part of the agreements signed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in November.
 
Israel Army Chief of Staff, Dan Halutz, said Tuesday that Israel would not allow the convoys until the Palestinian Authority cracks down on the resistance factions, and stop the firing of homemade shells.
 
Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported that the United States and other Quartet nations stepped up pressure on Israel to implement the agreement even before the conference started.
 
The Quartet asked Israel to renew contacts with the PA on enabling the bus convoys and to reduce the severity of the military closure on the West Bank.
 
Haaretz added that an official of the EU, speaking on condition of anonymity since the issue is still under negotiation, stated that the Palestinian Authority and were the focus of intense international efforts to resolve their difference.
 
The official added that a lot of diplomatic pressure is taking place, European and American.
 
Also, a senior western diplomat said that the suspension of Gaza-West Bank bus convoys is a direct violation of Israel’s agreement, and commitment it made to the U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
 
Diplomats at the London conference said that they hope Israel understands the strategic consequences of reneging on its explicit obligations, made to the U.S. administration.
 
Last Friday, -General Eitan Dangot, who is IDF liaison to Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz, and Major General Yossi Mishlav, the coordinator of government activities in the territories, said that there is no way that the convoy could begin operating as scheduled on December 15.
The two officials added that Israel needs at least one weak to conduct the needed preparations.
 
Mishlav and Dangot claimed that the P.A is not abiding by the terms of operating the Rafah Border terminal, and warned that Israel will significantly increase security procedures at the Eretz and Karni crossings.
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