Barak Debates Clinton Proposals with Israeli ‘Peace Cabinet’
Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Ehud Barak and members of his "peace cabinet" met overnight to study US President Bill Clinton's proposals for an elusive peace deal with the Palestinians, public radio reported Monday.
Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami, back from five days of talks in Washington aimed at forging a deal before Clinton leaves office in January, spoke of a "breakthrough" and recommended that Israel accept the peace plan, the radio said.
Ben Ami also said Arafat was in favor of the proposals, which cover some of the key issues at the heart of the conflict, including the holy city of Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees.
But the radio said Barak had reservations, quoting him as saying "Israel will not rush blindly on the path to peace."
The two sides are due to respond to the Clinton plan by Wednesday.
A spokesman for Barak had no immediate confirmation of the report of the meeting, which the radio said also involved Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, Barak's bureau chief Gilad Sher and his security advisor Danny Yatom, national security chief Uzi Dayan and left-wing Meretz party leader Yossi Sarid.
Israeli press reports say that the Clinton proposals involve Israel turning over control of Arab neighborhoods of occupied east Jerusalem to the Palestinians along with the al-Aqsa mosque compound, known to Jews as “Temple Mount.”
In return, Palestinians would waive the right of return for refugees, with only a small number allowed back to Israel for family reunification.
In addition, Israel would withdraw from 95 percent of the West Bank and 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, territories the Jewish state has occupied along with east Jerusalem since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)