Hebron talks continue despite shrine security snag
December 29, 1996
Web posted at: 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Talks on Israeli troop redeployment in
Hebron hit a new snag Sunday, but a deal between Palestinians
and Israelis was still expected by the end of 1996.
Palestinian officials said Yasser Arafat was insisting
on shared security for a shrine at the heart of Hebron, The
Tomb of the Patriarchs (known to
Palestinians as Ibrahimi Mosque). The site is revered as the
burial place of several biblical figures and considered holy
by both Jews and Muslims.
But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flatly rejected
the demand Sunday. He also told a group of U.S. college
students visiting Jerusalem that Jews would never leave the
West Bank city where they have lived for 2,000 years.
Netanyahu speaking about Hebron redeployment
"Jews will stay..."
(200 K / 17 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"Control in Hebron..."
(350 K / 30 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)
"The Jewish people are staying," the prime minister said.
"The Jewish people are not leaving Hebron."
Palestinian negotiator Hassan Asfour said Netanyahu's
stance "negates the spirit of peace, and the spirit of the
"Any Israeli existence, whether military or of settlements,
is temporary, until the permanent arrangement is achieved,"
Arafat was scheduled to meet with Israeli Defense Minister
Yitzhak Mordechai on Sunday evening to work on some of the
remaining divisive issues, and U.S. peace envoy Dennis Ross,
who jump-started this most recent round of talks, is expected
to return to the Mideast Monday.
Arafat briefed Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on the status
of the negotiations Sunday morning, and Israeli army radio
said the Palestinian leader would meet with Netanyahu to
discuss the Tomb of the Patriarchs later this week.
David Bar Illyan, Netanyahu's media adviser, said Saturday
an agreement was expected to be signed "in the next day
All's not quiet on West Bank
As negotiators met again on Sunday to continue their talks,
Israeli troops rounded up several Palestinians suspected of
tossing two Molotov cocktails at a Jewish settlement in
Hebron. There were no reports of damage or injuries.
Talks over the troop redeployment in Hebron broke down over
the issue of security for some 400 Jewish settlers in the
city of more than 100,000 Palestinians. Israel's previous
government had agreed to the redeployment, but delayed it
last spring after Islamic militants carried out a series of
suicide bombings in Jerusalem.
The redeployment was delayed further after the election of
hard-liner Netanyahu as prime minister.
A resolution on Hebron could spark talks on other
controversial issues in the region, such as future
settlements, refugees, the division of Jerusalem, and
Egypt's Mubarak even speculated that a successful deal on
Hebron could clear the way for talks with Syria. Syrian
Foreign Minister Farouq al-Shara was skeptical, saying that
it was possible Israel was only seeking to improve its image
by holding the Hebron talks.
"The other theory is that after finishing off the question of
Hebron, Israel will go into a serious process toward resuming
negotiations on all tracks, that is on the Syrian and
Lebanese tracks," the minister said.
Syria insists on a return of the Golan Heights, captured by
Israel in 1967. Netanyahu rejects that possibility.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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