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Palestinians Reject Israeli Plan, but Say There’s Room to Negotiate

The Israeli proposal for self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip is “incompatible” with the Palestinian proposal and does not satisfy their human rights concerns, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks said Thursday.

Hanan Ashrawi charged there is a “schizophrenia between public utterances” by Israel’s Labor-led government and the “actual substance” of Israeli proposals and practices, which continue to reflect a “Likud and hard-line policy.”

Nevertheless, Ashrawi said there is no reason to believe the parties to the peace talks are headed for an impasse. She stressed the purpose of negotiations is to reconcile differences.

“We are not rejecting anything,” she said pointedly.

Earlier in the week, the Israeli delegation submitted a detailed autonomy plan in which the Palestinians in the territories would elect an administrative council, made up of about 15 members, to manage their daily affairs.

The council plan falls far short of the 180-member legislative body proposed by the Palestinians, which Israel opposes as an “organ of statehood” and a violation of the terms of the talks.

The head of the Israeli team negotiating with the Palestinians, Elyakim Rubinstein, said the administrative council represents a “major step forward” for the Palestinians and will allow for a critical interim period of coexistence before determining the final status of the territories.

But Ashrawi claims the proposal violates the terms and requirements of the negotiations.

“We should be discussing a serious transfer of authority, not a delegation of responsibilities and functional tasks,” she said.

Without such a shift of “meaningful” authority to the Palestinians, legislative powers over the territories will remain not only in the hands of Israel’s military government, but in the Israeli Knesset, she said. “And that would be tantamount to annexation.”

But Ashrawi said she believed the plan for an administrative council is a “maximalist” negotiating position for the Israelis, “a starting point from which there is room to move.”

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