Palestinians Reject Partial Deal with Israel
The Palestinian Authority has swiftly put a damper on a mooted partial agreement towards a peace deal with Israel.
Israeli ministers floated Palestinian President Yasser Arafat a trial balloon on Sunday, saying Israel could recognize a Palestinian state if Arafat agreed to put off the touchy issue of Jerusalem.
The ministers also said the Palestinians would have to give up their demand for a full Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories as part of the proposed deal.
Haim Ramon, minister without portfolio in the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, told public radio there was "every chance the Palestinians would have limited sovereignty over security issues in an eventual Palestinian state."
However, at its weekly meeting here Sunday, the Palestinian Authority implicitly rejected the deal.
In a statement released after the meeting, the Palestinian leaders said there could not be a final accord without agreement on all the issues "Jerusalem, the refugees, colonization, borders and water."
The statement stressed that Israel should withdraw from all areas of the West Bank, except the zones which remained the object of the final status talks.
"It is not a question of talking about a percentage or the delay of the withdrawal," it said.
The Palestinians estimate that following the third withdrawal Israel would be left in control of no more than 10 percent of the West Bank, the fate of which would be decided in the final agreement.
Israel's Interior Security Minister Shlomo Ben Ami said Sunday that the Palestinian insistence on an Israeli withdrawal to the borders before the 1967 Middle East war would scupper any hope of a peace deal.
Peres suggested that a Palestinian state would include "a large part of the Palestinian territories" and specified that some land now occupied by Israeli settlers would be handed over.
All of them warned that the peace negotiations, whatever the final agreement, risked coming apart on the contentious issue of Jerusalem, which Israel claims as its eternal, undivided capital.
The Palestinians want to make east Jerusalem the capital of their future state.
"On the question of Jerusalem, an agreement doesn't seem possible and that's why the matter would have to be put off for several years," Ramon said. "It's the only realistic alternative."
Various Israeli officials have been putting forward their proposals for an eventual Palestinian state in recent days as peace talks between the two sides have been floundering.
Israeli television reported Friday that Barak intended to recognize a demilitarized Palestinian state covering some 65 percent of the Palestinian territories.
BARAK MAY MOVE UP PART OF WEST BANK PULLOUT
Barak told his cabinet Sunday he is willing to move up part of the West Bank withdrawal planned for June to the next several weeks as a confidence-building measure, according to Jerusalem Post on Monday.
The Israeli daily quoted Barak as saying he had decided to make this offer to spur the peace talks with the Palestinians after his meeting with US President Bill Clinton in Washington last week, when they decided to accelerate the Palestinian track. The offer also comes just ahead of Clinton's planned meeting on Thursday with President Arafat.
Officials in Barak's office said the size of this "advanced withdrawal" would be about 3 percent of the West Bank. The size of the June pullback - the third redeployment under the Sharm e-Sheikh Memorandum - is still being negotiated.
Barak said the negotiations are "making progress," and he hopes to reach a framework for the permanent-status agreement by the end of next month, followed by the third redeployment a month later. US special Mideast envoy Dennis Ross is due in the region at the end of the month.
PA BLAMES BARAK FOR DEADLOCKED PEACE PROCESS
Reuters reported that PA cabinet blamed Israel in its meeting yesterday for the lack of progress made during a second round of peace talks that concluded in the United States over the weekend.
"The second round of negotiations has been concluded without achieving any fundamental progress because of the Israeli attempts to jump over the international...resolutions," the cabinet said in a statement.
The cabinet was briefed on Sunday by a senior Palestinian negotiator who had just returned from week-long talks with the Israelis at Bolling Air Force base near Washington.
Israel and the Palestinians are striving to meet a mid-May deadline for a framework deal ahead of a final accord in September that would solve the major differences of borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and Jewish settlements.
"If the first round was zero, the second one could be close to zero," Asaad Abdel-Rahman, a PLO executive member present at the cabinet meeting, told Reuters.
"There hasn't been much progress. The gap is still wide and there are no bridges between the two positions," he said.
Arafat is scheduled to meet President Clinton in Washington on April 20 – (Several Sources)
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