With no Hebron agreement, tensions escalate
PLO official predicts renewed clashes
November 24, 1996
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST (1730 GMT)
In this story:
From Correspondent Jerrold Kessel
HEBRON, West Bank (CNN) -- A PLO official said Sunday new
clashes between Palestinians and Israelis will erupt if
Israel continues with its plan to expand settlement of the
The Palestinian public works minister, Azzam Ahmad, said the
Israeli government is "asking for confrontations" by
building new Jewish settlements.
Meanwhile, the issue of Israeli troop redeployment from the
town of Hebron continues to cause problems.
On the ground, preparations are in place for Israeli troops
to hand over 80 percent of this troubled city to Yasser
Arafat's Palestinian police. New Israeli army positions
around the settler enclaves have been fully sandbagged.
But at the negotiating table, there has been no movement at
all on putting the long-delayed Israeli redeployment into
Palestinians view the stalemate with new despair. "We really
thought there was a chance for peace," said one Palestinian
man. "But since it hasn't happened, we've lost our belief in
Jewish settlers, on the other hand, have found new hope. "I
don't know what God has in mind, but I hope and I pray that
he will intervene and the state of Hebron will remain as it
is," said one.
Many are beginning to think that Benjamin Netanyahu might get
away with doing nothing. Only a short while ago, such a lack
of action was considered diplomatically unimaginable.
"Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Arafat are at cross-purposes here.
Mr. Netanyahu wants to tell his people that he has achieved a
better agreement, with much better safeguards for Israelis,"
said Chemi Shalev, an Israeli political analyst.
"But the more he brags about his own achievement, the less
desirable this agreement becomes for Mr. Arafat. Unless the
two sides can indeed make the political decision to reach an
agreement despite their own internal political achievements,
we won't have an agreement."
Now each side is multiplying the other's fear by throwing its
own wish list onto the negotiating table. Arafat talks of
unilaterally declaring a Palestinian state. The Israelis
talk about vastly increasing their settler population in the
"The stalemate in the negotiations. the non-implementation of
the agreements, the policy of settlement expansion -- all
joined together spells disaster," said Chief Palestinian
Negotiator Saeb Erakat.
The perils of delay were underlined in a tense standoff in
the Gaza Strip Sunday, as hundreds of Palestinian motorists
blocked a road near a Jewish settlement that had been closed
to them. Israeli officers blocked their way, and warned that
they would open fire if the cars pressed on towards the
It has been almost two months since U.S. President Bill
Clinton said Israelis and Palestinians need time to work out
their differences on this thorny issue. The underlying
dangers remain, but the parties seem to have lost all sense
of urgency about concluding an agreement.
However, without a Hebron agreement, mutual trust is
virtually gone, and the attendant dangers of head-on clashes
again become very real.
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