Netanyahu Demands Arafat Condemn Attack on Settlers

Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have come to a halt in the wake of the murder of two Jewish settlers in the West Bank — amid reports that the sides were close to an agreement on a further Israeli redeployment from the West Bank.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded Thursday that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat condemn the shooting near Yizhar before negotiations resume.

Although Israeli and Palestinian officials met Wednesday, as scheduled, after the attack, no meetings took place Thursday and no further negotiations were planned.

Dr. Ahmed Tibi, an Israeli Arab adviser to Arafat, said the Palestinian leader had not condemned the attack because the Palestinian Authority draws a distinction between what they call regular Israelis and the settlers.

The sides have been meeting in an effort to bridge gaps that would enable Israel to agree to a 13 percent pullback, a figure proposed by the United States months ago and already accepted by the Palestinians. Netanyahu reportedly has agreed to a 10 percent withdrawal, but has been trying to find a way to meet the U.S. proposal without giving the Palestinians full control over an additional 3 percent.

After meeting in Amman on Thursday with Jordan’s Crown Prince Hassan, Israel’s public security minister, Avigdor Kahalani, said a compromise formula on the 3 percent was in the making, but he refused to elaborate.

During their three-hour meeting, Kahalani handed Hassan a message from Netanyahu that the negotiations with the Palestinians were “close to a solution.”

Further indications of a possible compromise came from an Israeli settler leader who, after meeting with Netanyahu on Thursday, charged that the premier had already decided to transfer to the Palestinians parts of the West Bank close to Jewish settlements, a move the settlers believe may harm their security.

Israel’s Cabinet Secretary, Danny Naveh, confirmed that the discussions between the premier and the mayor of the Jordan Valley regional council had focused on withdrawal from parts of the Judean Desert.

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