King Hussein visits West Bank
October 15, 1996
Web posted at: 9:40 a.m. EDT (1340 GMT)
(CNN) -- Jordan's King Hussein flew into Jericho Tuesday
morning, his first trip into the West Bank since losing the territory to Israel following the 1967 Mideast war. The king
-- the first Arab ruler to visit an autonomous Palestinian
area -- met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and
pledged Jordan's continued backing.
"I am happy to be on Palestinian land," Hussein said
during a joint news conference with Arafat. "We will support
our brothers by all means."
Hussein flew with Arafat to the West Bank from Amman,
Jordan, where the two leaders held talks Monday. Arafat came
to Jordan to discuss the latest round of Palestinian-Israeli
peace talks, which appear stalled over the issue of Israeli
troops in Hebron.
Arafat on Tuesday suggested deployment of an international
security force, including U.S. troops, to answer Israeli
concerns about keeping Jewish settlements in the region safe.
But U.S. officials quickly rejected the idea.
Officials from both sides Monday said Israeli Prime
Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and
Arafat would likely meet soon to announce an agreement on the
withdrawal of Israeli troops from Hebron.
But Netanyahu spokesman David Bar-Illan said Tuesday that the
prime minister and Arafat would not meet until the end of the
"Obviously, the meeting will not be for hard bargaining,"
Talks between principal negotiators for the two sides were
postponed Tuesday in favor of more informal meetings. The
formal talks were to resume at the Egyptian resort Taba on
Wednesday, U.S. mediator Dennis Ross said.
Closer to an agreement
Implementation of the long-delayed redeployment from Hebron
has been the main sticking point in the current
Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. But Foreign Minister
David Levy told Israeli's parliament Monday that an
agreement between Israelis and the Palestinians was just days
"If there is no retreat at the last moment, the agreement is
approaching. This is not a matter of weeks, but of a few
days," Levy said.
In a 1995 agreement signed in Washington, Israel had agreed
to begin the Hebron withdrawal in March. The deployment was
delayed by the previous Israeli government because of
security concerns after Islamic militant suicide bombings
killed 59 people in Israel in March and February.
The withdrawal was frozen indefinitely by Netanyahu after he
was elected prime minister in May. He has demanded changes
in the deal to ensure the security of some 400 Jewish
settlers who live amidst 100,000 Palestinians in Hebron.
Netanyahu survives no-confidence motion
Netanyahu's right-wing coalition handily defeated a
no-confidence motion Monday -- the second of its
four-month-old term -- by a vote of
55-49 with two abstentions. The outcome in Netanyahu's favor
The no-confidence motion followed grumbling from opposition
politicians that the Israeli leader has alienated Arabs,
squandering peace in the process. Netanyahu, however,
blames "a natural tendency in the Arab world" to pressure
Israel for concessions. (15 sec. /320K AIFF or WAV sound)
Nevertheless, the near collapse of Israel's relations with
Egypt after Netanyahu's election saw Israel's ceremonial
president, Ezer Weizman, dispatched to Cairo Monday on a sort
of rescue mission.
Although Weizman does not have the authority to negotiate a
peace agreement, Netanyahu said he hoped the trip to Egypt
"will help in the bilateral relations." Weizman assured
Egypt that the Israeli government would respect and implement
agreements it has reached with the Palestinians, Egyptian
President Hosni Mubarak said.
Netanyahu has signaled that he intends to use recent
Palestinian-Israeli violence -- most notably the firing by
Palestinian police on Israeli soldiers -- to build a
political consensus supporting his objection to further
significant concessions beyond the Hebron withdrawal.
Four-and-a-half months in office have shown Netanyahu to be
supremely confident. Despite the turmoil, he believes his
policies are right for Israel and can be implemented even at
the risk of further alienating Israel's Arab peace partners
and the United States.
Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and
contributed to this report.
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