Negotiations between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization ran into snags this week in Cairo, although both sides were stressing that the dialogue between the two side is continuing.
A major difficulty holding up the signing of a final agreement in the Egyptian capital was the issue of who will have legal jurisdiction over non-Palestinians once selfrule is implemented in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.
The Israelis were arguing that their courts should have jurisdiction, while the PLO was maintaining that such a stance would undermine their autonomy.
Chief PLO negotiator Nabil Sha’ath called a press conference Tuesday to draw attention to what he described as a “crisis” in the talks on legal issues.
By way of illustration, he noted that if someone commits an offense in England, he would be brought before a court there. No one, he said, would dream of his being brought to trial before the court of another country.
A source in the Israeli delegation said in reply that the Palestinians were demanding the jurisdictional rights of a sovereign nation, which is not the status that will be accorded the Palestinian enclaves in Gaza and Jericho under the terms of the accord signed last fall in Washington.
The Cairo talks have also reportedly hit snags on the release of Palestinians held in Israeli jails and the boundaries of the Palestinian enclave in Gaza.
Last week, the Israelis agreed to release 5,000 Palestinian prisoners: 2,500 were to be released upon the signing of a final agreement in Cairo, with the remainder to be set free three weeks later.
But this week, in no small part the result of recent terrorist attacks that took the lives of 13 Israelis and wounded over 70 more, the Israeli delegation said that 1,000 prisoners who had been convicted of security crimes would not be released.
PLO negotiators are also complaining that the current map of the Palestinian enclave in Gaza will give them no access to the Mediterranean Sea. Israeli negotiators are countering that the borders of already been finalized in previous round of negotiations.
A snag was also reported this week in the separate multilateral talks being held in Oman on the issue of water resources in the Middle East.
There, Israelis and Palestinians showed they could cooperate against a Jordanian attempt to torpedo the talks, which include more than 40 countries.
The Jordanian observer to the discussions on preserving scant water resources this week announced his country’s opposition to all the agreements reached so far.
The reason for the Jordanian stand was their demand that the United States withdraw its embargo on shipping bound for the Jordanian port of Aqaba. The embargo had been imposed after Jordan began shipping goods to Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.
Jordan’s opposition was important, since all decisions reached at the Oman talks must be agreed to unanimously.
The Palestinians were particularly upset by Jordan’s move, since it threatened important Palestinian gains made at the talks.
The Jordanian stance was also a blow to Oman, which has gained in prestige since the talks began.
With the U.S. chairman of the talks trying to rescue the negotiations, the Palestinian and Israeli delegations told him that if he could not persuade Jordan to back down, they would recommend to the other participating countries that they nevertheless adopt the meeting’s decisions.
That move was apparently enough to cause Jordan to back down.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.