JERUSALEM (Oct. 31)
Israeli officials are playing down expectations for this week’s summit in Oslo between Prime Minister Ehud Barak, President Clinton and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat. The three were scheduled to meet Tuesday in Oslo to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. The former Israeli prime minister’s breakthrough 1993 accord with the Palestinians came as a result of secret talks in the Norwegian capital.
“Barak is first of all going to honor Rabin’s memory,” a source in Barak’s office was quoted as saying.
“There will be no decisions or declarations. They will discuss procedure and a timetable for final-status talks. They will not agree on the solution for the problem of Jerusalem, and it is doubtful they will present detailed positions.”
Clinton also would not speculate on what may come out of the meeting. Last Friday, Clinton said Israel and the Palestinian Authority had set an “aggressive” timetable when they agreed to reach a framework agreement on final-status issues by February.
The heads of the Israeli and Palestinian teams negotiating the final-status agreement met last Friday to prepare for Tuesday’s summit. They agreed to begin formal negotiations next Sunday.
The difficult security and political issues faced by Israel and the Palestinians were underscored by a shooting attack Saturday night on an Israeli bus near the West Bank town of Hebron.
Five people were injured in an ambush that security officials believe was carried out by an Islamic militant group. The attack occurred near the village of Tarkumiya, which is the final point of the safe-passage route Israel opened last week for Palestinians traveling between the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
Israeli hard-liners have warned that the route would be used by terrorists to carry out attacks against Israelis.
Despite the shooting, Israel went ahead Sunday with the opening of a section of a major road in Hebron to Palestinian traffic.
The opening of a portion of Shuhada Street, which runs past Jewish settlements in Hebron, was called for in a land-for-security agreement Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed September in Egypt.
Jewish settlers in Hebron, angered by the shooting, protested against the road’s opening, saying the move endangered their safety.