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US Mideast Plan Announcement Draws Mixed Reaction in Israel - 2003-03-14

President Bush's announcement that he would soon unveil a long-sought Middle East peace plan, a so-called "road map" for peace, has drawn mixed reactions from Israelis and Palestinians.

Israeli Foreign Ministry Spokesman Yoni Peled said Israel sees 'eye-to-eye' with President Bush. He said Israel agrees that, once there is a Palestinian prime minister, with real powers, who will begin fighting to stop terror, then Israel will be willing to begin discussing a solution.

But the Palestinian side had a more low key reaction to the announcement by the U.S. leader, in which he called on both sides to 'abandon old hatreds and meet their responsibility toward peace.'

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Saeb Erekat said it was "high time for the American president to introduce the road map for implementation." In response to Mr. Bush's call for the Palestinians to appoint a prime minister with "real authority," Mr. Erekat said "all the necessary political and legal steps have been taken."

Earlier this week, Palestinian President Yasser Arafat named his deputy, Mahmoud Abbas, to be prime minister, but Mr. Abbas has not yet accepted the post. Mr. Arafat has also called for several changes in the authority given to the post of prime minister, which the legislature is to vote on next week.

Mr. Erekat said the steps the Palestinians have taken so far would create a position of prime minister "who is empowered and credible." And, he said, the "road map" must be introduced along with a mechanism that would result in the immediate implementation of the plan.

Both the United States and Israel have called for a change in the Palestinian leadership, to effectively replace Yasser Arafat, a man the two countries have said has been tainted by terrorism.

The new Palestinian prime minister designate is seen as a moderate, who has spoken out against attacks on Israel.