Both sides drift apart on 'imminent' Hebron deal
January 4, 1997
Web posted at: 6:20 p.m. EST (2320 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- An agreement on the disputed West Bank
city of Hebron appeared to unravel as mutual recriminations
on both sides escalated despite efforts by a U.S. peace
mediator to sustain the talks.
Israel's refusal to
commit itself to a timetable for further West Bank
withdrawals after Hebron was holding up a deal, Palestinian officials said.
"Israel must understand that Hebron is not the only remaining
issue for us," Palestinian negotiator Jamil Tarafi said.
But Israeli officials blamed the delay on what they say are
new demands by Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. Many fear
the Palestinian leader may want to exploit a shooting
incident last Wednesday in which an off-duty Israeli solder
fired into a Hebron vegetable market, wounding five
"An agreement has been ready for over two months now and
throughout this time the Palestinian Authority has tried to
stall and delay," said David Bar-Illan, top aide to Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
After meeting separately with both Arafat and Netanyahu on Saturday, U.S.
envoy Dennis Ross described a Hebron deal as "close," but
added that obstacles remain.
"You have to resolve everything to have an agreement," Ross
Israel was to have redeployed its troops in Hebron some 10
months ago under a 1995 interim accord but violence and
security concerns have held it up.
Several hundred Jewish settlers live in Hebron amid about
Israel also has missed a September dateline for the first of
three pullbacks from rural areas of the West Bank. If Ross
again fails to clinch a Hebron deal, the U.S. could choose to
shift its diplomatic efforts to its home court.
Both Netanyahu and Arafat have received invitations from
President Clinton to visit Washington separately early in the
new year, although no precise dates have been set, spokesmen
for the Israeli and Palestinian leaders said.
In Hebron Saturday, dozens of Jewish seminary students bused
into the volatile West Bank town for the Sabbath danced in
the streets as they headed to prayers.
About 100 Palestinians, staking their claim to the West Bank,
tried to plant trees near a Jewish settlement south of Hebron
Saturday but were stopped by Israeli soldiers, Arab witnesses
"Most of the essential points we have not resolved," said a
senior Palestinian official, who did not want to be
Asked if an accord was far off, the official responded:
Reuters contributed to this report.
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