Newsletter : 5fax0928.txt
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Publisher\Editor Don Canaan
Sept. 28, 1995, V3, #177
All the News the Big Guys Missed
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Historic Israeli-Palestinian Signing on White House Lawn Many Arabs and Jews Oppose
By David Borgida, David Gollust and Al Pessin
Here in Washington today, the White House is the site for a
historic Mideast signing ceremony, this one, marking the agreement
between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization that
extends self-rule to the more than 1 million Palestinians living in
the West Bank.
The security around the White House began to tighten noticeably
early Wednesday, as law enforcement officials moved the usual crowd
of protesters and homeless away from Lafayette Park just across
from the north side of the White House. The broad avenue there,
Pennsylvania Avenue, has been closed to traffic, creating a
The White House grounds are being attended to also as workers
were observed removing what few weeds appear to the naked eye.
So many will be here, from the key regional leaders -- PLO leader
Yasir Arafat, Prime Minister Rabin, Egyptian President Hosni
Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein -- as well as Russian Foreign
Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Spanish Prime Minister Felipe Gonzales,
representing the European Union. Syria and Saudi Arabia will also
Middle East political analysts are fond of depicting the agreement
between Israel and the PLO not as reconciliation, but as a divorce
decree between two quarreling parties sharing the same household.
Under Rabin, Israel has effectively given up the notion of a
Greater Israel, encompassing the West Bank and Gaza. His main
objective now is to hand over responsibility for governing the
nearly 2 million Palestinians there in a way that protects Israel's
political and security interests, and preserves the country as an
essentially Jewish state.
Under the much-delayed second phase of autonomy, Israeli security
forces will pull back from major population centers in the West
Bank within 10-days of the signing -- giving the Palestinians
initial control of 30-percent of the region's land area, and most
of the rest by early next year.
Elections for a new Palestinian governing council, in which the
Arab residents of Jerusalem will take part, will be held after
the pullback is completed next March. Israel is committed to
releasing most of the estimated 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails
in three stages, starting immediately after the signing.
The PLO's obligations under the agreement are less extensive, but
include the politically significant step of finally striking
language calling for Israel's destruction from the Palestinian
covenant, its founding document.
In an ironic twist, Arafat's Palestinian opponents may have a
shared interest with Israeli right wing and Jewish settler
militants who are hoping the second phase of autonomy will fail
and be rolled back.
The negotiations which produced the agreement being signed at the
White House were some of the most difficult in the long history
of the regional peace process. The agreement which is a year
behind schedule was only completed after more than a week of
virtual non-stop negotiations in Taba, Egypt. The final week was
punctuated by two angry PLO walkouts and urgent intervention by
top US and Egyptian diplomats.
All for an agreement that does not address the most critical
issues between Israel and the Palestinians. Those being the
political future of Jerusalem, the status of the 140 Jewish
settlements in the West Bank and Gaza, resettlement rights for
Palestinians living abroad and in refugee camps in the Arab
world, and the question of Palestinian statehood.
While Arafat insists the process has made full statehood
inevitable, Rabin sees this as, at best, a possibility. Such
matters are to be left to the so-called final status negotiations
due to begin no later than May of next year and which are shaping
up as a turning point in Middle East politics.
Israel's Cabinet has approved the agreement to expand Palestinian
autonomy, which was initialed Sunday, clearing the way for Yitzhak
Rabin to sign the accord today in Washington. After a lengthy
meeting, the 18-member Cabinet approved the accord with no members
opposing it and two abstaining.
One of the abstaining ministers said he is concerned about the
plan to place some Jewish holy places under Palestinian control.
The other said he is worried about Israel's promise to release
more than 2,000 of the 5,000 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli
jails. The Cabinet approved that plan Wednesday in a separate
The government is expected to have a more difficult time gaining
approval in the Israeli parliament, where it holds only a slim
majority and several members of the ruling coalition are expected
to vote against the accord. The parliament is expected to begin
discussing the agreement next week.
Meanwhile, Yasir Arafat faced new opposition to the accord. Arafat
has received the endorsements of his cabinet in Gaza and of several
members of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Executive
Committee in Tunis. But Wednesday, seven other members of the
18-member committee issued a statement denouncing the accord.
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