Beilin in Washington: ‘Israel Willing to Dismantle Most Jewish Settlements’
By Munir K. Nasser
Chief Correspondent, Washington, DC
Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said in Washington Friday that most of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank would be dismantled, and Jews who remained would not be under Israeli sovereignty.
In a speech to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, Beilin said most of the settlers will quit what would then be part of a Palestinian state because "they would not prefer to live under Palestinian sovereignty."
Beilin announced that the capital of the Palestinian state could be established on the outskirts of Jerusalem. He said there was virtual agreement between the two sides on nearly all issues and suggested that there were ways to resolve the two toughest: the future of Jerusalem and Palestinian refugees. He said Palestinian refugees with relatives in Israel and others with humanitarian needs could be admitted to Israel. He added, however, that Israel could not accept a "right of return" for all Palestinians and their descendants who were forced out of Israel when it was established in 1948.
Beilin stressed that Israel still believes a peace deal with the Palestinians is possible even though conditions have changed. He said Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak remains willing to pay a "high price" for peace. "We are far from giving up," he said. "There is a chance" of concluding an agreement in the 50 days remaining in the Clinton administration,” he stated.
Beilin stressed, however, that "we are not ready to negotiate with the Palestinians while they are still shooting." He warned, however, that if the violence continues much longer, "the heroes of the street" may sweep aside the current Palestinian leadership. As a result, Beilin said, Arafat is more interested in pursuing peace with Israel now than a month ago.
In a meeting with reporters at the Israeli embassy in Washington, Beilin said that the sharply scaled-down peace deal the prime minister proposed Thursday was no more than a "fallback position." He stressed that Barak does not want it, but if Palestinian President Yasser Arafat prefers a partial accord, one that would give him a state and put off disputes over Jerusalem and refugees, that would be all right with the Barak government, Beilin said.
According to State Department sources, Beilin met with Sandy Berger, President Clinton's national security advisor, Undersecretary of State Thomas Pickering, and senior US mediator Dennis Ross.
State Department Philip Reeker said on Friday that Beilin’s visit was to review and discuss current developments in the region as part of the ongoing US communication with Israeli officials.
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)
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