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Aides to Netanyahu, Arafat Striving to Arrange Summit

September 3, 1996
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Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were continuing intensive discussions in an effort to bring about a summit meeting this week between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.

Speaking to reporters Monday in Gaza, Arafat said the latest talks had failed to reach “a common ground” that would make a meeting with Netanyahu possible.

“There are attempts from both sides,” Arafat said, “but until now, nothing concrete” has been reached.

Shai Bazak, Netanyahu’s media adviser, said no date had been set for a meeting.

At the same time, Israeli sources in Jerusalem said Monday night that the sides could possibly make enough headway for a Tuesday night meeting.

Netanyahu has said repeatedly since his election in May that he would meet with Arafat only if it was necessary for Israeli security. However, after Israeli President Ezer Weizman announced last week that he was ready to meet the Palestinian leader, the prime minister indicated that he would do likewise, possibly before his trip next week to the United States.

Egypt, meanwhile, reiterated its warning that a regional economic conference planned for November in Cairo would be canceled if Israel did not implement within three weeks signed agreements with the Palestinians.

“The five points that Israel must implement are redeployment from Hebron, further redeployments from the West Bank, opening safe passages between Gaza and the West Bank, release of all women prisoners and lifting the closure completely,” Egyptian Ambassador Mohammed Basiouny told reporters.

He said Egypt was interested in action, not words.

His remarks reflected the tone of Egyptian newspapers Monday that commented on Foreign Minister David Levy’s talks in Alexandria the previous day with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

The papers said the test of Israel’s commitment to the peace process would be its implementation of the redeployment of Israeli troops in Hebron.

Netanyahu’s office said in response that “the Egyptian pronouncement constitutes an unfortunate threat which can only exacerbate tensions in the region.”

Danny Gillerman, chairman of the Israeli Chambers of Commerce, said cancellation of the regional summit would hurt Egypt more than any other country.

“It would send the message that the Middle East is closed for business,” he told Israel Radio.

Monday’s contacts were a continuation of marathon talks held the previous night between Dore Gold, Netanyahu’s senior political adviser, and Palestinian Interior Minister Saeb Erekat.

Gold also met Monday with Mahmoud Abbas, a senior Palestinian official also known as Abu-Mazen, in an effort to hammer out a joint formula for the resumption of peace talks.

Among the issues they discussed were Palestinian demands that the Israeli troop redeployment be carried out and that the Palestinian Authority be allowed full control over the newly constructed Palestinian airport in Gaza at Dahaniya, near Rafah.

For Israel, maintaining security control over the airport and an end to illegal Palestinian activities in Jerusalem were uppermost on the agenda.

Terje Larsen, a Norwegian who was involved in the secret Israeli-Palestinian talks in Oslo that led to the first agreement in 1993, had hosted Gold and Abu Mazen for talks at his Tel Aviv apartment since mid-August, according to Monday news reports.

The Norwegian paper After Posten reported that in the talks, the two sides had agreed to discuss certain changes to the Hebron redeployment plan.

Discussion of additional Israel Defense Force redeployments in the West Bank, set to begin Saturday under the Interim Agreement, would be put off until the redeployment in Hebron is carried out.

They also agreed that Israel would grant entry permits to a total of 50,000 Palestinian workers, an increase from the 35,000 now allowed to enter.

But Monday, Palestinians retracted whatever reported agreement was reached.

Palestinian official Faisal Husseini told reporters that the Palestinians would refuse to renegotiate signed agreements.

Mohammed Dahlan, the head of the Palestinian preventive security service in Gaza, warned of a renewed armed struggle if Netanyahu did not advance the process.

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