Source: Mideast report offers 'plenty' to upset both sides
Leaders must formulate responses to Mitchell Committee findings
From Mike Hanna
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian and Israeli leaders Friday received the Mitchell report, which sources say finds fault with both sides for months of bloody clashes and offers recommendations for preventing flare-ups.
"It is a balanced report," one U.S. official said. "There is plenty for both sides to be upset with."
Leaders have until May 15 to respond in writing to the Mitchell Committee, a U.S.-led panel charged with investigating the Mideast conflict.
The committee will include the responses in the document and send it to U.S. President George W. Bush, who, in consultation with U.N. Secretary- General Kofi Annan, will formally release it -- perhaps later in May.
Sources who have read the document indicate it does not apportion blame on any side in particular. They said it urges the Palestinian Authority, headed by Yasser Arafat, to do more to end shooting from Palestinian areas on Israeli targets, and at the same time, describes Israeli military action as disproportionate.
It also says the expansion and existence of Israeli settlements in what it calls occupied territories is a provocative act that promotes violence, the sources said.
The report, they say, makes no mention of an International Protection Force, which the Palestinians want and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has opposed.
The Israelis and the Palestinians agreed to formation of the Mitchell Committee last October during a summit at Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. It is headed by former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell.
Sharon visit to holy site mentioned
Sources say the report addresses Sharon's visit to the holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews -- called Temple Mount by Israelis and Haram al- Sharif by Palestinians -- which occurred just before the violence erupted on September 28, 2000.
The report says the visit was not a direct cause of the conflict but must be seen in the context of Palestinian dismay with the lack of progress in the peace process, sources say.
They say the document makes no specific recommendations as to what steps should be taken to end the violence, but said any security cooperation should take place in a wider political context.
According to one source, the report provides the dots which, if linked, might serve as the beginning of a formal solution. It makes clear the violence itself is a product of the failure of negotiation and therefore cannot be ended unless ways are found to restart the negotiation process.
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