JERUSALEM, Oct. 22--Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Sunday dismissed Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's call for a "time-out" to reassess the Mideast peace process, saying Barak could either accept Palestinian independence or "go to hell."
When asked for his response to Barak's announcement, Arafat said: "The march of Palestinians will continue toward East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestinian state. Accept it or don't accept it, he [Barak] can go to hell."
The Palestinian leader made the comment in front of television cameras and in English after arriving in Gaza from this weekend's Arab League summit in Cairo, Egypt.
Barak announced the time-out earlier Sunday in reaction to the Arab summit's condemnation of Israel and continued deadly clashes between Israeli soldiers and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.
Barak told his Cabinet that Israel needed a "time-out" to re-evaluate the tattered peace process. Such a move could put on hold years of negotiations with the Palestinians.
After more than three weeks of violence that has left 120 dead, Barak said there was little hope for progress toward a comprehensive political settlement, though that has been his top priority since his election last year.
"We need to have a time-out whose goal is to reassess the peace process in light of the events of the last few weeks," Barak told the weekly Cabinet meeting. "Israel will continue to pursue peace and every path that leads to it, but one would have to be blind to security and political needs to continue as if nothing has changed."
The statement issued by Barak's office did not say when the time-out would begin or how long it might last. The prime minister made brief remarks to journalists following the Cabinet session, but gave no additional details.
Hannan Ashrawi, a prominent Palestinian spokeswoman, told CNN that Barak was leaving the "peace process because what he's doing right now is really waging war against a captive Palestinian population."
In renewed unrest, at least three Palestinians were killed Sunday.
A 14-year-old Palestinian boy was shot and killed in the Gaza Strip during a clash at the Erez crossing with Israel, hospital doctors said. Also, two Palestinian men were killed near the West Bank town of Hebron, hospital officials said. Clashes involving stone-throwing and exchanges of gunfire were reported in several chronic trouble spots in Gaza and the West Bank.
Meanwhile, the Arab summit in Cairo ended Sunday with a declaration that Arab states may consider cutting ties with Israel, but did not insist that they do so.
Israel, which closely monitored the summit, praised the host, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, for ensuring that the Arab leaders took a "balanced approach."
Ashrawi, meanwhile, sharply criticized the Arab leaders, saying the summit declaration was "a whimper and not a bang" that fell well short of Palestinian expectations.
"Israel has wreaked havoc on the region, has destabilized the whole region," she said. The moderate Arab stance "will only make the Arab people more disgruntled with their own leadership."
In his statement, Barak noted that peace talks have been suspended in the past, only to be relaunched when the political atmosphere calms down. He said he expected the same result this time, but gave no indication of when that might be.
Before Barak's announcement, several Israeli Cabinet members said they opposed suspending the peace process.
"A time-out will lead nowhere," Transportation Minister Amon Lipkin-Shahak told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronot. Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said such a move would damage Israel's international standing.
With the peace process on hold, Barak said he would attempt to shore up his shaky government by establishing a "national emergency government."
He has been attempting to persuade Ariel Sharon, leader of the right-wing Likud opposition party, to join his minority government. Sharon previously rejected the idea of joining the government, but said Sunday it was a possibility if Barak slowed down the peace process.
Sharon, speaking on Israel radio, said he could support a unity government that aimed for "a different peace process that will lead to a long-term interim agreement that will keep strategic points in our hands."
If Sharon and his Likud party join Barak, it could prevent the Israeli government from crumbling and save Barak from facing early elections. However, Sharon is widely reviled by the Palestinians, and his presence in the government would hamper efforts to revive peace negotiations.
In response to the current crisis, the Israeli government has also been making an assessment on a "unilateral separation" from the Palestinians. In such a scenario, Israel would unilaterally draw a fortified border with the Palestinians without waiting for a peace agreement.
Since the violence erupted at the end of September, the Israelis and Palestinians have not held negotiations on a political settlement, though they have met in an effort to stop the current fighting. Several cease-fires have been declared, but none has taken hold, and each new round of clashes prompts bitter recriminations and calls for vengeance.
Just three months ago, Israelis and Palestinians were closer than ever to a comprehensive settlement when they held intensive negotiations overseen by President Clinton at Camp David, Md.
But they failed to reach a breakthrough--particularly on the crucial issue of Jerusalem and its Christian, Islamic, and Jewish holy site--and the latest violence is the worst since the two sides launched regular negotiations seven years ago.