Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has once again turned downs offers by European officials for a package deal with Arafat that would mean a simultaneous implementation of all the recommended steps outlined in the Mitchell Report, and in effect immediately resume negotiations. Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said yesterday that, in effect, Israel is conducting negotiations with the Palestinians.

Peres said: “Israel is holding talks with the Palestinians not only in the area of security but also on diplomatic issues so as to achieve a cease-fire.” Officials in the Prime Minister’s Bureau were surprised by these statements, and a senior official in the bureau said: “We do not know what talks Peres is talking about or exactly who he is speaking with.”

The Sharon government has built 61 new apartments in the settlements in its tenure and contrary to its declarations, says MK Mossi Raz of Meretz, according to a Construction and Housing Ministry document. “It is time the Labor Party came to its senses and found out whether their presence in the government is not merely a fig-leaf for continuing the provocative building in the settlements.”

Shefi Gabai adds: Arafat met yesterday with Egyptian President Mubarak and briefed him on his talks with President Jacques Chirac in Paris and the results of the Mitchell Report. Immediately following his meeting with Mubarak, Arafat flew to Amman to meet with King Abdullah of Jorda.

This article ran in Maariv on, May 25th, 2001