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Arabs Not Responding Seriously to Peace Ideas, Israelis Charge

While Israel is offering practical proposals to advance the peace process, the Arabs are still dickering over non-substantive issues, ministers charged at Israel’s weekly Cabinet meeting Sunday.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said he hoped the talks would enter a “substantive” stage this week after Arab delegates failed to address the specifics of Israel’s new offers at the opening of the sixth round of negotiations last week.

In Washington, meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said the heads of the three Israeli negotiating teams would fly home this week for consultations, leaving behind members of their teams to continue the talks with Syria, Lebanon and the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.

At the Cabinet meeting here, Rabin praised the “good atmosphere” at the talks, particularly those involving Syria.

But Housing Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer of the Labor Party said the Palestinians were stalling because of internal differences and an absence of a clear line of authority.

“The reality is they waste time on questions we view as unimportant while Israel started the process with gestures and is ready to immediately get into substance,” Ben-Eliezer told reporters after the weekly Cabinet meeting.

“In my assessment, the source of disagreement among Palestinians stems from the absence of a source of authority and the inability to take a leadership decision to sit with us and get into substance,” he said.

Similar disappointment was expressed by Interior Minister Arye Deri of Shas, who said the Arab side is “not serious, not ready and lacks a leadership ready to make decisions.”

Meanwhile, Jewish and Druse residents of the Golan Heights joined at an “emergency session” in Katzrin on Sunday to hear Labor and Likud politicians criticize Rabin’s readiness for concessions to Syria by a partial withdrawal from the strategic plateau.

Labor Knesset member Avigdor Kahalani, leader of the parliamentary lobby for the Golan Heights, said Rabin’s offer of returning “a few centimeters” of the heights to Syria invited demands by Damascus that Israel would not be able to meet.

Likud Knesset member Benjamin Netanyahu challenged the Syrians to give up their claim to the Golan Heights if they sincerely want peace.

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