WASHINGTON (Feb. 26)
Now that the Israeli and Palestinian delegations to the Middle East peace talks here have stopped arguing over procedural matters, the Palestinians have turned to insults as a means of postponing negotiations, the Israeli delegation claims.
The Israelis were especially incensed Wednesday when the Palestinians took to resorting to what the Israelis called “verbal abuse,” just as both sides had placed their autonomy proposals on the table.
Yossi Gal, the Israeli delegation’s chief spokesman, expressed anger that an anonymous Palestinian had been quoted as saying the Israelis “deserve to have their necks broken” for having submitted their proposal for autonomy negotiations.
Gal said the Palestinians’ “verbal abuse and incitement to violence” conform to a well-established pattern.
“The Palestinians are advised to stop using this type of language,” Gal said, adding that Israel is very serious about advancing the peace process.
“Those who want to break our necks with find we are truly the stiff-necked people in out pursuit of peace,” he said.
Gal also took umbrage at a statement made by another Palestinian that the Israeli proposal was an “insult to the intelligence.”
Gal said Israel had presented the Palestinian with a 10-page proposal, listing various areas which the Palestinians could have self-government, ways that would allow Palestinian sovereignty over their daily lives.
The Palestinian delegation presented an autonomy proposal calling for complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and administrative, judicial and legislative authority.
Gal called this a plan for a Palestinian state, not for an interim period of autonomy.
For this reason, he emphasized, Israel will not discuss the Jewish settlements in the territories, as the Palestinians demand.
Gal pointed out that settlements are part of the territorial issue, which is to be discussed tree to five years after an interim period of autonomy is in place.
NO HEADWAY WITH SYRIAN OR LEBANON
Things did not seem to be going too well in the other bilateral negotiations, either.
The Syrians continued to demand complete Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a precondition for negotiating anything else, said Yosef Ben-Aharon, head of the Israeli delegation.
Ben-Aharon said without this condition, the Syrians would not grant Israel legitimacy.
Israel’s legitimacy “is not something for bargaining,” Ben-Aharon said.
Rather, he said the negotiations must be about how to secure peace and security.
Similar territorial demands were made of Israel by the Lebanese delegation, which demanded Israel’s withdrawal from its so-called security zone in southern Lebanon.
Yosef Hadass, co-chairman of the Israeli delegation talking with the Lebanese, said Lebanon refused an Israeli proposal to form two subcommittees to deal with specific issues leading to peace.
Meanwhile, in an effort to move the talks forward, Edward Djerejian, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, has been meeting separately with the members of the various delegations.
On Wednesday, Djerejian met with Faisal Husseini, the East Jerusalem activist who is an adviser to the Palestinian delegation, and Hanan Ashrawi, the Palestinians’ spokeswoman. Djerejian met earlier this week with Syrian, Jordanian and Israeli negotiators.