ad info
   middle east

 custom news
 Headline News brief
 daily almanac
 CNN networks
 CNN programs
 on-air transcripts
 news quiz

CNN Websites
 video on demand
 video archive
 audio on demand
 news email services
 free email accounts
 desktop headlines

 message boards





World - Africa

S P E C I A L Struggle for Peace

Palestinians press Israel to accept troop pullback plan


Hamas striving to be stronger political force

June 6, 1998
Web posted at: 10:07 p.m. EDT (0207 GMT)

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- Senior Palestinian officials urged Israel Saturday to accept a U.S.-proposed plan to withdraw its troops from the West Bank, warning that time was running out for Israel to act.

The government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears close to accepting the U.S. plan, which would leave 40 percent of the West Bank under full or partial Palestinian control and restrict the expansion of Jewish settlements.

The Palestinians already have accepted the initiative, which never has been formally unveiled but has been widely reported. U.S. officials expect a decision from Israel within days, they said.

"We are not willing in any way to renegotiate the initiative ... I think the clock is ticking very fast."

— Palestinian Cabinet minister Hanan Ashrawi

On Friday, the Palestinian Cabinet in Gaza was briefed on two days of talks this week in London by Palestinian negotiators and U.S. envoy Dennis Ross. Israeli army radio reported that Ross asked the Palestinians to accept some revisions in the U.S. proposal.

But after the Cabinet meeting, Palestinians said they made no changes, and that the next step rests with Israel and the Clinton administration.

"We accepted the (U.S.) initiative, trying to be helpful in getting the peace process back on track," Cabinet minister Hanan Ashrawi said. "We are not willing in any way to renegotiate the initiative ... I think the clock is ticking very fast."

Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, said Israel should swiftly accept the proposal or "we will continue to see this government's policy of stealing (land) and wasting time."

Hamas presents new political challenge

The Palestinians also are facing a new political challenge from Hamas. The Palestinian group provides educational and social services, but also has a militant wing that has sent suicide bombers into Israeli cities.

Arafat, left, and Yassin  

Hamas is launching a drive to become a serious political force in the face of the stalled negotiations.

Recent polls show Palestinian frustration with the peace process is rising along with support for Hamas. Many Palestinians see this as a direct outcome of the stalled peace negotiations.

"We are presenting an alternative for the negotiations but not an alternative for the Palestinian Authority," Hamas official Ismail Abu-Shanab explained. "We are not aiming at the authority. We are aiming at liberating our land."

Hamas founder Sheik Ahmed Yassin, who was released from an Israeli prison in October, is touring Arab and Muslim capitals to build support and collect contributions.

Worried Israeli officials are reportedly thinking of barring Yassin from returning to Gaza, a trip scheduled in 10 days.

Meanwhile, leaders of Jewish settlements are intensifying their campaigns to oppose any pullbacks. If Netanyahu agrees to a withdrawal, far-right lawmakers have pledged to try to bring him down at the next opportunity by voting against the government in a no-confidence motion.

Israeli media have speculated that Netanyahu, faced with defections by the far right, may soon try to form a national unity government with the opposition Labor Party as a junior partner. Such a coalition would have to be formed immediately after any parliamentary vote on a troop withdrawal.

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Struggle For Peace
B A C K G R O U N D   I    K E Y   P L A Y E R S   I   M A P S

Special sections:
Newsmaker profiles:
Related stories:
Latest Headlines

Today on CNN

Related sites:

Note: Pages will open in a new browser window

External sites are not
endorsed by CNN Interactive.

Enter keyword(s)   go    help


Back to the top
© 2000 Cable News Network. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.