JERUSALEM (Dec. 29)
Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organization negotiators have hammered out a draft agreement on security issues for implementation of the self-rule accord, but it remains unclear whether the draft will meet with the approval of PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Wednesday night he expected that an agreement between Israel and the PLO would be finalized within “two or three weeks.”
Peres headed the Israeli negotiating team that has been negotiating with the PLO in Cairo for much of the past week.
As Peres flew back to Israel, Arafat was closeted with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in the Egyptian capital for what observers believed was a tough bout of Egyptian pressure.
The PLO chief flew into Cairo on Wednesday evening — his third visit there this week — as his aides signaled he was still unhappy with compromise proposals evolving in the negotiations.
Arafat arrived in Cairo from Tunis, where the PLO’s Executive Committee had rejected the Israeli proposals for breaking the deadlock that has so far held up implementation of the self-rule accord.
Israeli news media, while admitting they were still largely in the dark over details, reported from Cairo that the draft agreement now on the table broadens the area that will fall under Palestinian authority in the West Bank town of Jericho to some 24 square miles.
The agreement also reportedly provides four separate but linked Israeli and Palestinian control facilities at the border crossing points between Jericho and Jordan and between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
EGYPT PRESSURING ARAFAT
But the draft maintains effective Israeli military control over the borders themselves, with the Palestinians reportedly permitted to mount their own border patrols some distance inland.
The draft also deals with security arrangements for Israeli settlers living in the stretch of settlements in the south of Gaza.
The draft agreement was worked out late into Tuesday night with the personal and intensive participation of Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, who spent six hours with the delegations in Cairo’s Gezira Sheraton Hotel.
The Egyptians, who are hosting the talks, are playing an increasingly active role as mediators in the negotiations.
Israeli officials maintain that Mubarak and his top aides accept Jerusalem’s positions on matters of security, and are bringing strong pressure on Arafat to accept them.
Peres, in his brief remarks Wednesday night, said it was now up to “the PLO leaders” to adopt the “joint declaration,” as he called it, that had been hammered out in Cairo.
He noted that the two sides had instructed their subgroups negotiating on security issues, which meet at the Sinai border town of Taba, to reconvene immediately “in order not to waste any time.”
It was not clear whether the joint liaison committee, which is headed by Peres and by the PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas, will need to meet again before the accord can be signed.
The liaison committee, which met this week in Cairo, has overall responsibility for overseeing the implementation of the self-rule accord. The subgroups were empowered to hammer out the operational details of any agreements reached by the liaison committee.