Israel\'s ‘Most Dovish’ Negotiating Team in History Pushes for Summit

Published December 20th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Israel has sent its "most dovish" negotiating team in history to Washington to pave the way for a new summit between the Israeli, Palestinian, and US leaders, a top Israeli envoy said Wednesday. 

Yossi Sarid, an envoy of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, said he briefed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak about Israel's preparations for the talks it opened late Tuesday in Washington with the Palestinians. 

"Yes, I'm optimistic" about these talks, he told journalists after meeting with Mubarak, who had earlier consulted separately with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. 

With US President Bill Clinton leaving office in one month, the talks amount to his last push to get the Israelis and Palestinians back on track for a final settlement after 12 weeks of violence. 

"There is enormous (Israeli) effort to ensure this particular round will be as successful as possible and the message coming out of Washington will open the road to a summit conference" of Barak, Arafat and Clinton, Sarid said. 

"The present Israeli team in charge of the negotiations with the Palestinians is the most moderate, dovish team in our history," Sarid said. 

It includes Tourism Minister Amnon-Lipkin Shahak, Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, and Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben Ami as well as Sarid, who is chief of the left-wing Meretz party, all of whom are considered doves in Israel. 

"We're making an extra, extra effort in order to ensure the present round of negotiations will be as promising and succesful as possible," Sarid said without revealing whether there were new proposals. 

But he added Israel needs the help of Egypt, which in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel and plays a key intermediary role, especially with the Palestinians. 

"I told the president ... that without a very, very deep, constructive involvement of Egypt, it will be very, very difficult to reach peace, to reach an agreement," Sarid said. 

"The main reason I'm here is to ask the president to express Egyptian good will toward both sides," he added. 

Egypt withdrew its ambassador from Israel last month in protest at what it called excessive Israeli force in cracking down on the new Palestinian uprising -- CAIRO (AFP)  



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