Arafat Negative on Draft Accord, but Israelis Are Not Giving Up Hope

Yasser Arafat has been sending out negative signals about the draft accord on security issues hammered out this week by Israeli and Palestinian negotiators trying to implement the first stage of autonomy in the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.

But Israeli officials are refusing to be drawn into the Palestine Liberation Organization leader’s talk of a crisis in the negotiations.

Officially, senior government officials are voicing disappointment over Arafat’s failure, at least so far, to endorse the accord hammered out this week between Israeli and PLO negotiators in Egypt.

But privately, they are adopting a low-key, strong-nerved posture.

The basic attitude within the government continues to be optimism that the negotiations will eventually end in success, despite the difficulties.

As of late Thursday evening, Arafat had not formally rejected the draft accord.

But a bad sign was the failure of Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa to fly to Israel after talks in Cairo early Thursday between Arafat and President Hosni Mubarak. Moussa had been expected to fly here to report on the meeting.

PLO negotiator Yasser Abed Rabbo told reporters that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres had “exaggerated” by describing the draft as an agreement when in fact Israel had “dictated” the terms.

The draft accord, reached by teams led by Peres and PLO negotiator Mahmoud Abbas in three days of strenuous negotiations, lays down detailed arrangements for the border crossing-points between the Palestinian self-governing areas of Jericho and Gaza, and the states of Jordan and Egypt respectively.

A SHARED POST WITH SEPARATE WINDOWS

According to widespread reports here, the draft accord calls for a shared post, with separate Palestinian and Israeli windows. Residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip passing through the checkpoint would submit their documents at both windows. The Palestinian window would be flanked by the PLO flag and a Palestinian officer; the Israeli window will be similarly demarcated.

Most travelers would be checked electronically. Israeli-requested searches of Palestinians would be conducted by a Palestinian, with an Israeli border officer present. Both Palestinians and Israelis would have the right to demand identification from travelers and veto their entry.

The agreement reportedly specifies the size of the Jericho enclave as some 21 square miles, from Deir el-Kuruntul to the west of Jericho and Mahru Musa Alami to the cast.

Despite the uncertain status of the draft accord, further Israeli-Palestinian discussions on security are expected to continue at the subcommittee level, most likely beginning Sunday.

But there is no sign yet that a summit meeting between Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin is in the offing.

Peres reportedly insisted to the Egyptians, who are playing the role of intermediary, that there can be no such summit unless and until all the main issues of dispute are resolved.

NEXT STORY