JERUSALEM (Nov. 15)
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres met with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Cairo on Sunday, in an attempt to break the logjam in Israeli peace talks with the Palestinians.
But there was little immediate indication of whether they had made any progress.
Israeli diplomats have complained that divisions among the Palestinians have prevented them from responding boldly to Israel’s offer of speedy elections in the territories, followed by implementation of an autonomy arrangement.
The Palestinians, in turn, have complained that the Israeli Labor government’s proposals are little different from those of the previous hard-line Likud regime. They want Israel to make a commitment to eventual territorial compromise before they agree to any proposals about interim self-rule.
Egypt, as the only Arab country that has relations with Israel, is trying to bridge the gap.
The meeting Sunday was officially a reciprocal visit to that paid to Israel a month ago by Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa. But it took place shortly after Egyptian officials met with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.
Mubarak was expected to transmit a message from Arafat calling on Israel to negotiate directly with his organization, Egyptian sources said. Arafat wanted Israel to know that progress would not occur in the peace talks unless Jerusalem abandoned its refusal to meet with the PLO.
But Israeli officials have reiterated that there will be no change in Jerusalem’s policy of refusing direct or indirect contacts with the PLO, which it still regards as a terrorist group.
Peres’ visit coincided with violence in the administered territories, triggered by the fourth anniversary of the Palestine National Council’s decision to declare an independent state.
In and around Jerusalem’s Old City, police used rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse rioters, injuring a tourist in the process.
In the marketplace of the West Bank town of Kalkilya, an Israeli army officer was stabbed Saturday by a 23-year-old woman. The attacker, who was apprehended, said that the “Prophet Mohammed appeared in my dream, and ordered me to avenge Palestinian victims.”
A Palestinian terrorist on his way to Jerusalem was hospitalized at the Hadassah Medical Center in Jerusalem on Saturday after a bomb exploded in his hands. A second man managed to escape.