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World - Middle East

Barak's coalition narrows on settlement issue

Mideast peace
Items from Israeli draft coalition agreement

The draft coalition agreement between Prime Minister-elect Ehud Barak's One Israel party and liberal and nationalist parties, published in the Haaretz newspaper on Sunday and confirmed by Barak's office, says the government will:

  • Curb Jewish settlement building in areas claimed by Palestinians but not dismantle existing settlements.

  • Accelerate negotiations with the Palestinians to reach a final agreement that guarantees Israel's security, and bring that agreement to a national referendum.

  • "Respect and implement" agreements signed with the Palestinian Authority and insist the Palestinians do likewise.

  • Renew negotiations with Syria aimed at reaching a peace agreement.

  • Work to withdraw the army from Lebanon while ensuring the safety of residents in northern villages.

  • June 6, 1999
    Web posted at: 7:00 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT)

    JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Israel's prime minister-elect will not dismantle existing Jewish settlements on land claimed by Palestinians, but he will curb construction of new settlements.

    A spokesman for incoming Israeli leader Ehud Barak confirmed Sunday that draft guidelines published in Israeli newspapers were written for Barak's emerging coalition government. The Palestinians have demanded a halt to new construction in the West Bank and Gaza as a condition for restarting peace talks, which stalled during Benjamin Netanyahu's years as prime minister.

    Netanyahu actively promoted new settlements in the Palestinian-claimed land. But according to the guidelines, Barak will offer to cancel economic benefits Netanyahu instituted for settlers.

    The guidelines limit future expansion of Jewish settlements to essential services, such as schools or medical clinics. They appeared to signal a willingness on Barak's part to form a coalition government without Netanyahu's Likud Party, which wants Barak to maintain existing support for settlement expansion.

    "Barak keeps talking about national unity, but this is in complete contradiction to that concept," said Yehudit Tayar, a spokeswoman for the 170,000 settlers who live among 3 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

    The decision on settlements would also appear to keep the pro-settlement National Religious Party out of Barak's coalition.

    "We cannot accept these clauses even if they give us 100 portfolios," NRP legislator Shaul Yahalom said.

    Barak's stance on settlements may force him to form a center-left government instead of the more broad-based coalition he initially sought.

    Also in the guidelines, Barak pledged to honor peace deals with the Palestinians, try to speed up "final status" talks and put any accords reached with Arabs -- including Syria -- to a national referendum.

    Reuters contributed to this report.

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