Israel May Seek U.S. Letter Opposing Palestinian State

Israel is seeking American assurance that it will oppose the Palestinian Authority’s plan to declare an independent state prior to the conclusion of final-status negotiations, according to an Israeli media report.

The Israeli daily Ha’aretz, quoting political sources, reported this week that Israel would like a U.S. proposal concerning a further Israeli redeployment from the West Bank to contain such a guarantee.

Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat has said that he would declare a Palestinian state next May regardless of the status of the talks. Under the Oslo accords, the final-status talks are slated to end by May 4, 1999.

In exchange for a U.S. letter of guarantee, the sources said, Israel would agree to forego construction of new Jewish settlements — without committing to limiting the expansion of existing ones.

Such a letter, Ha’aretz reported, also would resolve the issue of an additional redeployment — a move Israel is opposed to carrying out, but one that is called for under the interim agreement with the Palestinians.

The Clinton administration has recommended that Israel hand over 13 percent of the West Bank now in a further redeployment.

In another development, the director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Eitan Ben-Tsur, told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that Israel had managed to head off a French-Egyptian initiative to convene an international peace conference without the Palestinians or Israelis.

Ben-Tsur said that instead, the organizers were leaning toward an international gathering along the lines of the 1991 Middle East peace conference in Madrid.

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