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>PD October 3, 1994 V2, #179
Israel and Jordan Meet Today with President Clinton
By Patricia Golan (Jerusalem)
Israel's foreign minister and Jordan's crown prince meet
President Clinton in Washington today, where a statement is
expected on the final delineation of the border between Israel
and Jordan. Also today, talks resume between Israel and the
PLO in Cairo on the next phase of Palestinian autonomy.
The Palestinians are pressing to hold elections as soon as
Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul Salam al-Majali said Sunday that
Jordan and Israel have not reached agreement on any of the key
issues in the peace talks. Nevertheless, there are Israeli and
American reports that agreement has been reached on border
demarcation between the two countries. Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres and Crown Prince Hassan met Sunday in New York to prepare
for the Washington meetings.
In an unannounced summit Thursday between Israeli Prime Minister
Yitzhak Rabin and Jordan's King Hussein, there was no apparent
breakthrough in resolving the thorny issue of water allocation.
Jordan claims Israel is unfairly using too much of the region's
Now that the PLO has taken control of most of the Gaza Strip and
the West Bank town of Jericho, talks begin in Cairo on phase two of
Palestinian self-rule. According to the Israeli-PLO agreement, the
second stage involves a pullout by Israeli troops from Palestinian
population centers in preparation for Palestinian general elections
on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The Palestinians say they want the elections held before the end
of the year. The Israelis say that is not enough time to
redeploy, and maintain the Palestinians are demanding sovereign
powers that go beyond their agreement.
Israel says there are difficult issues that must be negotiated
before the army can pull out of Palestinian areas in the West
Bank, such as Jewish settlements in the occupied territories and
safe roads connecting the self-rule areas. Israel and the
Palestinians also differ on the size and nature of the self-rule
council to be elected. Israel is proposing a small executive
body; the Palestinians are demanding a larger assembly with
Knesset Law May Block Golan Withdrawal
By Daud Majlis (Washington)
Some members of the Israeli Knesset belonging to the ruling Labor
Party are pushing a bill to block Israeli withdrawal from the Golan
Heights. The bill may trigger a confidence vote in the parliament
for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The 12 hunger strikers at Gamla on the Golan Heights have decided
to end their hunger strike against the government's policy
concerning the future of the Golan. The strike lasted for 19 days.
The strikers decided to stop their fast after the bill was
introduced that would buttress the Golan Heights Law of 1981. The
proposed bill states that any peace deal with Syria involving a
withdrawal from the Golan Heights will require either a public
referendum with 65 percent approval or a Knesset vote with 70
members in support.
Meanwhile, the head of the opposition Likud Party, Benjamin
Netanyahu, blames Syria for not negotiating in good faith.
Netanyahu, former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations,
emphasizes that his party actively pursued peace in the Middle East
under the Camp David accords and during the Madrid Conference, and
will do so again when his party comes to power. The Likud Party, he
says, will seek peace with any Arab country who desires genuine
However, the opposition leader says, in his opinion, Syria is not
genuinely interested in peace. Instead, it wants to regain land
from which Israel has been attacked many times in the past.
VOA Arabic reporter Hayat al-Khateeb spoke by telephone from
Washington with Netanyahu about his party's position on peace
talks with Syria. Netanyahu says Syria attacked Israel again and
again from the Golan Heights, and as a result it forfeited any
right to any automatic claims to the heights.
"We do not see a real commitment (on the part of Syria) to
reconciliation and to an end to the state of belligerency, the
feverish arming and the thinly disguised attempts to use the
territories once they are back in Arab hands for future attacks on
Israel. This is why we oppose that kind of a bogus peace and
support a genuine peace."
Netanyahu says he would negotiate with Syria for peace only when
negotiations start on the question of who will stay on the Golan
Heights -- not on the position that Syria should have the
territory simply because it makes the demand.
He criticized the current Labor Party government's negotiating
methods. "I would not negotiate as prime minister with any Arab
government, with any Arab party, very differently from the way the
Arab parties would negotiate themselves. I found often in my
discussions with the Arab leaders at the UN, and since my service
at the UN, that they respect a firm position. They know that they
can trust a tough negotiator."
Netanyahu emphasizes that a majority of Israelis, including those
who live in the Golan Heights, say they want a real peace with
Syria -- a peace that Israel can defend. If Israel unilaterally
walks away from the Golan Heights and leaves the north of Israel
unprotected, he says, it will not be an enduring peace, either
for Israel or for Syria.
Netanyahu argues that the Golan Heights is important for peace
because, according to him, Israel's presence there has ensured the
absence of war for 20 years.
Limited Room for Withdrawal
Commentary by Elisha Efrat (Ha'aretz)
If, indeed, no Jewish settlement on the Golan Heights is to be
dismantled, a minimal withdrawal of a few kilometers in order to
test Syria's intentions should not be ruled out.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's declaration regarding a minimal
Israeli withdrawal on the Golan Heights without dismantling any
settlements, parallel to the establishment of diplomatic relations
with Syria and normalization, which would be tested over the course
of three years, until the stage of the final withdrawal, naturally
raises the following question: where would such a withdrawal be
possible, without substantially altering Israel's strategic
position on that piece of land?
If we act on the assumption that, indeed, no Jewish settlement on
the Golan Heights is to be dismantled, and that there will be a
minimal withdrawal of a few kilometers only, then we are left with
a very limited range of possibilities. A close examination of the
geography of the Golan Heights shows that the number of areas in
which there will -- in all likelihood -- be no withdrawal for
various reasons, is much greater than the number of areas which in
which there could be such a withdrawal.
For example, there is no reasonable logic which would suggest a
withdrawal from the Golan Heights' southeastern border, near Hammat
Gader and parallel to the Yarmuk River -- about which discussions
are now being held regarding water-allocation arrangements between
Israel and Jordan. Also, it can not be assumed -- under present
circumstances -- that land for a possible withdrawal could be found
along Nahal Rukad, near the bloc of settlements on the southern
Golan Heights, along the Mevo Hamma-Ramat Magshimim road, since
they are located a mere 2-5 kilometers from Israel's forward line.
There is little likelihood for a partial withdrawal along the Ramat
Magshimim-Alonei Bashan-Ein Zivan road, due to the topographical
importance of this parcel of land (comprising the peaks of the Mt.
Peres, Mt. Yosephon, Mt. Shifun and other ridges) lying opposite
Syrian territory; moreover, only a few dozen meters separate the
1974 disengagement lines between Israel and Syria here. There is
also no possibility for any withdrawal whatsoever opposite the
demilitarized town of Kuneitra, lest it be repopulated by Syrian
residents and thus constitute a threat to the settlements of Ein
Zivan and Merom Hagolan, which are very close to the border.
On the Golan Heights' northern border, there is also no likely
tract for a withdrawal at this stage, not even a minimal
withdrawal, due to the great strategic value of Mt. Hermon and Mt.
Dov -- 'the country's eyes' -- opposite the Damascus Plain, and
also due to the great importance of lookout points on the various
peaks, which often rise to more than 1,500 meters above sea level.
Not even the divided village of Rajar is a possible site for such
a withdrawal, due to the importance of the nearby waters of Nahal
Snir, which flow into Israel.
.By eliminating various tracts of land for either topographical or
strategic reasons, or due to the proximity of Jewish settlements,
only one parcel of land -- in the northeastern Golan Heights -- is
left as a potential place for a limited withdrawal: the area
between Kuneitra and the Druze village of Majdal Shams, which also
contains the Druze villages of Bukata and Massada. This area, east
of Mt. Varda and Mt. Ram, extends for 15 kilometers and is 4-5
kilometers wide. Topographically, it is overlooked by Mt. Hermon,
Mt. Odem and other peaks. It is very possible that a concession
over this piece of land, in which 2-3 Druze villages -- with
national, cultural, and social links with Syria which find public
expression at every opportunity -- have remained since the Six Day
War, would be the relatively easy solution on this issue. The
Syrian villages of Khan Aribane, Ofna, and Jabta al-Hashav, which
lay opposite, are no significant danger to Israel.
If it becomes clear that, indeed, this is the designated area for
a minimal and symbolic withdrawal from the Golan Heights, designed
to test the seriousness of the Syrians, it would appear that there
would be no reason for the kind of protest activities being
organized today by residents of the Golan Heights; and there may be
no objective reason for outraged reactions regarding this parcel of
land, or others, that are likely to encompass a total of about
seven square kilometers, and which comprise no more than 6.5% of
the Golan Heights total area.
Except for the view that there can be no withdrawal from the Golan
Heights, as presented by the Golan Heights' residents, such a
minimal withdrawal is worthwhile in order to achieve some larger
step, which could lead to peace between Israel and Syria.
[Professor Efrat is a planner and geographer.]
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