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Israeli security issues warnings on final-status talks, report says

LONDON, Sept. 29 (JTA) – Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service has reportedly cautioned Israel’s leaders against driving too hard a bargain with Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat in the final- status talks. Achieving an agreement that is “better than strictly necessary” for the Jewish state “may play against us in the future,” Shin Bet officials say in a secret five-page memorandum to Prime Minister Ehud Barak. “The agreement would look good for Israel, but it would not be durable and solid.” A copy of the memorandum, “The Palestinians: Room for Maneuver Toward the Final Status,” was acquired by the London-based newsletter Foreign Report, which plans to publish its key points this week. Barak is said to have endorsed the memorandum’s “secret recommendations” for handling final-status talks. The memo says that Arafat is flexible and will give up some Palestinian demands if Israel accepts an independent Palestinian state and withdraws from most of the West Bank. Other key points from the memorandum’s recommendations regarding Israeli negotiating positions include: * Jerusalem. “All Palestinians think Jerusalem should be the capital of the Palestinian State which is to be formed.” If Arafat fails to achieve a satisfactory agreement on Jerusalem, the memo says, Hamas may attempt to seize the Palestinian leadership. But while acknowledging the gap between Israeli and Palestinian positions, the memorandum suggests there is room to maneuver. The boundary of Jerusalem recognized by the Palestinians, it points out, is larger than the area recognized by the Israelis, and the Palestinians’ capital could be set up in an area they consider to be part of the city but the Israelis do not. * The West Bank. “Arafat believes that holding onto the formula of asking for ‘all of Palestine’ will jeopardize his chances of achieving partial Palestinian sovereignty.” * Settlements. “Arafat will start off with a strong demand for a total evacuation of all settlements, but as he knows this will be a non-starter for the Israelis and would mark the end of the process, we can expect flexibility on his behalf about this matter. “We believe that the idea of exchanging territories will help Arafat to swallow the bitter pill of settlements remaining.” Moreover, it suggests, Israel could remain in some areas through a lease-back arrangement with the Palestinians. * Palestinian refugees. While Arafat always insists on the refugees’ “right of return,” it is likely that he would be prepared to convince his constituency abroad to accept compensation for their property and give up their dreams of going home. * Palestinian sovereignty. “We can identify among Palestinians a growing tolerance of ambiguity regarding the achievement of sovereignty,” the memorandum says. “We think the Palestinians now believe there is more than one way to implement it.” Arafat realizes that in the future he will depend on both Israel and Jordan, the memo adds. The Palestinian aspiration to sovereignty “clashes with geopolitical reality,” the memo contends. “The Palestinians have a vital interest in maintaining the pattern of a special relationship with Jordan,” it says. “Arafat wants the Palestinians in Jordan to feel they enjoy full citizenship. But he will not ask the refugees to move to the new Palestine, which will be too small to accommodate them. “Although Arafat will announce his independence, the geopolitical situation will force him to depend on his neighbors. Arafat will have no other choice than to opt for a confederation with Jordan. “That is why we recommend that the initiative for a confederation with Jordan should be a Palestinian initiative and, for tactical reasons, Israel should not mention this idea under any circumstances.”