Arafat, Netanyahu to meet on Hebron deal
January 14, 1997
Web posted at: 11:20 a.m. EST (1620 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat planned to
meet at midnight Tuesday for what negotiators hope will
result in a final agreement on Israeli troop redeployment.
U.S. Special Envoy Dennis Ross said the meeting would be
held at the Erez Junction on the border between Israel and
the Gaza strip.
"We have been working and there will be a meeting tonight
between the prime minister and the chairman at Erez," Ross
told Israel Radio. Negotiators were to begin meeting about
six hours before the two leaders get together.
Netanyahu, speaking to reporters in Jerusalem, said that there was a chance the deal could be completed at the meeting, "but it is not guaranteed."
Arafat spokesman Nabil Abourdeineh confirmed the meeting.
Israeli sources said there is nothing left to do in the
negotiations but to work out the final details.
"We would not take the risk of another meeting at this point
if we were not sure that we could finalize this agreement,"
said an Israeli government source.
Another Israeli source, however, said that the meeting could
finalize the agreement, but predicted that a signing would
not take place at that time.
A major stumbling block to the agreement was removed earlier
when Arafat agreed to allow Israel to complete redeployment
of troops in rural areas of the West Bank by August 1998,
instead of the September 1997 date stipulated by the
agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians.
The two sides were also reportedly haggling over the wording
of so-called "notes for the record" to be attached to the
agreement by the United States. The notes would list
commitments made by the two sides during the talks, including
issues to be discussed at future negotiations.
The new agreement's main thrust is the redeployment of
Israeli troops in Hebron, the last city still under Israeli
control in the West Bank. Under the new agreement, Israel
will withdraw its troops from 80 percent of the city and hand
the city over to Palestinian self-rule. The remaining troops
will serve primarily as protective forces for the
approximately 450 Jewish settlers who live in the heart of
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who has advised Arafat
during the course of the negotiations, said Tuesday that he
expected the troop redeployment to begin by the end of
Netanyahu has come under increasing criticism for negotiating
with the Palestinians. Seven of 18 ministers in the prime
minister's cabinet have announced they will vote against the
new agreement, and eight have announced they are in favor of
Netanyahu is not required to win the cabinet's approval for
the deal to go through, but it would be difficult to proceed
if the cabinet voted against it.
The prime minister's critics -- both in Israel and among the
West Bank settlers -- charge that he is giving back much of
the territory Israel won in the 1967 war with Jordan.
Netanyahu denies those claims.
"We are not going back to the '67 boundaries," he said. "We
are not building a Palestinian state."
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.
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