Haaretz: Israel, PA Expected to Agree on Basis for Talks
Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority will probably agree to continue their current negotiations on the basis of the American bridging proposals, sources close to the talks told the Israeli daily, Haaretz.
“Off the record, Palestinian officials said these proposals are significantly better than Israel offered in Washington last week, and so the PA would probably agree to negotiate on this basis,” said the report.
However an Israeli source told the paper that during last week's talks "the Palestinians essentially accepted the American proposals they rejected at [the] Camp David [summit]. We didn't offer much more than we had already agreed at Camp David."
US President Bill Clinton, who engineered the proposed deal, is expecting both side to give their final say by Wednesday, a too early deadline as far as Barak is concerned, according to a report by The Jerusalem Post.
Palestinian Information Minister and key negotiator, Yasser Abed Rabbo, has said some elements were "positive" while others "required caution."
However, he added, the proposal did address all the issues and did not require trade-offs (such as Israel giving up the Temple Mount in exchange for the Palestinians' conceding the right of return).
But the officials said the PA attaches three conditions for signing any agreement, according to Haaretz.
One, which they say the American proposal already includes, is that international forces replace Israeli troops along the Jordanian border and the international community should guarantee implementation of the agreement.
Two, the agreement should be anchored in a UN Security Council resolution.
Three, the agreement should be approved by the Palestinian public in a referendum.
For his part, Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, head of the Israeli negotiating team, told a meeting of the "peace cabinet" last night he had also recommended proceeding on the basis of the American proposals since they offered a "reasonable resolution." Furthermore, he said, Israel cannot afford to carry the blame if it rejects these proposals.
But Israeli sources were quoted by Haaretz as saying their side will not officially respond until Palestinian President Yasser Arafat does.
If an agreement is signed, Israel will get a generous compensation package from the United States, including an upgrading of its strategic relationship and military aid. Ben-Ami discussed this package with outgoing Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and also raised the issue briefly with the incoming secretary of state, Colin Powell.
Prime Minister Ehud Barak, speaking to the cabinet earlier in the day, warned that if Israel did not reach an agreement with the Palestinians, its peace treaties with other countries in the region would be threatened and it would risk a "regional escalation" and international isolation – (Several Sources)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)