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Jerrold Kessel: Waiting for Sharon's next move

CNN's Jerrold Kessel
CNN's Jerrold Kessel

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The bombings are a signal against the peace process, says CNN's Jerrold Kessel.
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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- A suicide bombing rocked Jerusalem Sunday, killing seven people, and the repercussions are being felt in Washington where a planned meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and President Bush has been postponed.

CNN Correspondent Jerrold Kessel reports from Jerusalem:

KESSEL: It was just before 6 o'clock in the morning, the start of Israel's working week. The first commuter buses were heading into the city from one of the outlying northeastern suburbs. That's the area of Jerusalem Israel annexed after the 1967 war, and where Israel has built major housing complexes.

Aboard one of those buses, the No. 6, as it headed into one of the major intersections, toward the center of the city, a major explosion.

Police say a man boarded the bus, disguised as an orthodox religious Jew to escape detection from the driver and from fellow passengers, and blew himself up. In so doing he killed seven people aboard the bus and wounded more than 20, several of them are in serious condition.

Political implications were not the order of the day as people went about counting the dead, making sure the wounded were tended to and carrying out the grim work of clearing up after another harrowing attack.

But those political implications were not going to be disguised at all, especially as this attack was followed by another suicide bombing farther north, just on the outskirts of Jerusalem. There, no casualties apart from the bomber himself being killed.

And that the attack had come just several hours after the meeting in Jerusalem between Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and the newly installed Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, otherwise known as Abu Mazen.

While that meeting was under way there were in fact two other attacks on the West Bank aimed at Jewish settlers. A Jewish settler couple killed in the divided West Bank town of Hebron.

Clearly, the political implications are coming to the fore. The problems, say the leaders of the Palestinian Authority, is that Sharon instead of undercutting their new prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, should be trying to work in concert with him.

Palestinian Authority spokesman Ghasan Kahtib said: "What is unfortunately creating a fertile atmosphere for the increasing violence is the failure of the attempt to renew the peace process.

"And part of that is the Israeli refusal to accept the Palestinian request, in the meeting between Abbas and Sharon, to support the American (peace) proposal that is called the road map."

The Israelis say the problem is the new Palestinian prime minister must show, not just declare, that he is going to take on the militants. And, say the Israelis, the big problem is whether Abbas will not, any longer, play ball with their old nemesis, Yasser Arafat.

Ra'anan Gissin, a spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, said: "I'm not saying that we are going to make any changes in the policy, but there is no doubt that the fact that Arafat is now the major obstacle to peace, the major obstacle to implementing the road map and also undermining Abu Mazen's rule and attempt to institute a new Palestinian government, clearly must be taken into consideration by all parties involved, the United States, the Europeans, as well as us."

As the world waits to see what Sharon will choose to do, he has chosen first of all, not to travel, for the moment, to Washington for a scheduled meeting with President Bush at the White House on Tuesday.

He says he wants to stay at home to see how he can handle this latest spate of Palestinian attacks.

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