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Mike Hanna: Israel accepts Palestinian state

CNN's Mike Hanna
CNN's Mike Hanna

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JERUSALEM (CNN) -- The Israeli Cabinet voted Sunday to accept the U.S.-supported road map to peace that would lead to a Palestinian state within three years. CNN Correspondent Mike Hanna spoke to anchor Fredricka Whitfield about the significance of the vote and the steps that may follow it.

HANNA: It was a stormy six-hour meeting, it's reported, of the Israeli Cabinet, which met throughout Sunday to discuss one issue, and that is whether or not to accept the road map to peace as suggested by U.S. President George W. Bush. At the end of debate and argument, the vote came in -- 12 members of the Cabinet voted in favor, seven members voted against and four abstained.

The significance of this vote is that in this 23-member Cabinet, including Ariel Sharon, there is now a majority for the implementation of the road map.

Another significant issue is that this is the first time an Israeli government has formally accepted in principle the establishment of a Palestinian state. The road map suggesting that this state be established within a three-year period.

Among the first to react to the Israeli Cabinet decision was a man who had been deeply involved in attempts to get a peace deal together in the past and that is former [Israeli] Prime Minister Ehud Barak, and this is what he had to say:

BARAK: For a government led by Sharon and the right wing it's very meaningful and, in a way, promising, but we should calibrate our expectation. It still has to be proven that the Palestinian side is ready, beyond the opening gestures and ceremonies, [to] move forward with the actual demands of President Bush in his last June speech, namely to elevate [Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser] Arafat to some totally symbolic role, with not even a drop of executive authority, to crack [down] on Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, and put an end, eventually, to terror against Israel.

HANNA: Well, there are demands on the Palestinians, there are demands on the Israelis, too, including movement to withdraw from Palestinian towns and villages and cities, as well as a freezing of all settlement activity.

The Israeli Cabinet in the course of the day passed a separate resolution rejecting the Palestinian right to return. This just one of the many hurdles and obstacles that are going to come in the days and weeks ahead as this road map goes through the process of implementation, but at this stage both parties now have accepted the road map in principle and now looking for an implementation of this road map on the ground.

WHITFIELD: How soon before the implementation, then?

HANNA: It would be virtually immediately. There's talk of a meeting between Ariel Sharon and the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas within the next 24 hours. The possibility, too, in the days ahead of a meeting with these two leaders, as well as ... Bush.

So certainly this is going to be a very quick process in terms of beginning the implementation, although, as we've seen in attempts to get a peace process in place before, very, very difficult to do it in terms of what is happening on the ground.

And this is going to be the key issue -- whether there is a cessation of violence creating the conditions in which the implementation of the road map can proceed as smoothly as possible.

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