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Israeli Cabinet sets tough conditions for peace process

January 13, 1998
Web posted at: 3:30 p.m. EST (2030 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's Cabinet unanimously adopted a document Tuesday which toughens its stance on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The document links territorial concessions demanded by the Palestinians to a 12-page list of Israeli conditions, including a crackdown on terrorist attacks against Israeli targets, the revision of anti-Israeli clauses in the PLO charter and a reduction of the Palestinian police force.

In response, the Palestinians accused Israel of stalling and said they have lived up to obligations spelled out in previous peace accords.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denied he was playing for time by continuing to link a troop withdrawal to the Palestinians' performance on security.

"There is no ultimatum here," Netanyahu told reporters. "We believe that the Palestinians keep their side of the bargain and we will keep our side of the bargain. It's a very simple idea."

Still, the Cabinet decision is likely to increase the strain between Israel and United States, which sought a troop withdrawal from the West Bank in the near future.

Palestinian and Israeli leaders are to hold separate talks with President Clinton in Washington next week. Clinton reportedly expects Netanyahu to present a detailed plan for a troop pullback at their January 20 meeting. Senior adviser David Bar-Illan, however, said Netanyahu will likely give Clinton only a general outline of the pullback.

Security is of grave concern as Israel is on high alert for possible terrorist attacks.

On Monday, several members of the Islamic group Hamas were arrested during a raid by Israeli security forces working with Palestinian police. Those arrested were detained on suspicion they were planning bombings in West Bank settlements and Israeli cities.

The Cabinet document demands the Palestinians arrest and disarm Islamic militants, who have carried out more than a dozen suicide bombings in Israel since 1994.

Israel also wants the Palestinian Authority to hand over suspects in the killing of Israelis and to reduce the size of the security forces in the West Bank from 40,000 to the 24,000 permitted in the peace accords.

Israel says the Palestinians have not lived up to their promise to annul sections in the PLO Covenant calling for Israel's destruction. The Palestinians say a 1996 vote by the Palestine National Council took care of the matter.

In a U.S.-brokered agreement last year, Israel promised to withdraw troops from the West Bank in three stages, by mid-1998. A first pullback offer of 2 percent was rejected by the Palestinians as insufficient, and the second stage is two months overdue.


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