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Beilin Confirms Palestinian Deal

By Patricia Golan (VOA-Jerusalem)

A former Israeli Cabinet minister says negotiators from Israel's previous government reached an understanding last year with the PLO on the establishment of a Palestinian state. The top policy adviser to former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Yossi Beilin, says he worked out wide-reaching understandings with Palestinian negotiators in secret talks, before the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

Beilin was a key figure in the talks which led to the 1993 Israel-PLO interim agreement. Interviewed on Israeli radio and TV, he said understandings were reached on some of the thorniest issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including the future of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and millions of Palestinian refugees. Beilin said that in exchange for Israeli recognition of a state, the Palestinians agreed in principle that no settlements would be dismantled, and they also dropped demands to establish the Palestinian capital in east Jerusalem.

Details of the informal agreement emerged in an interview, in a Jewish settler magazine, with Yair Hirshfeld, one of the Israeli negotiators. Hirshfeld said the Palestinians agreed to key Israeli demands, provided a Palestinian state is created, Palestinian interests in jerusalem are respected, and that no Arab villages would be annexed by Israel.

"And if we recognize those three very important Palestinian demands, then an understanding is possible which is a win-win situation for both sides."

Hirshfeld says there was agreement to recognize each other's basic needs. For Israel, he says, this includes complete security, allowing most of the Jewish settlements to remain, and retaining Jerusalem as its capital. He said the Palestinians would agree to Israel's annexation of about 10 percent of the West Bank, bringing about 70 percent of the 140,000 Jewish settlers under Israeli sovereignty.

A senior official in the Palestinian Authority has confirmed most of the details of the plan described by Hirshfeld and Beilin.

The proposed blueprint is an indication of the extent to which the two sides were ready to compromise. But the agreement may be irrelevant. Israel's hardline Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to block the creation of a Palestinian state. His media advisor David bar Illan calls the understandings merely "an intellectual exercise" since neither side had formally endorsed them.

Both Israel and the Palestinians have been vague about their positions regarding a final peace agreement. Bar-Illan says this is deliberate.

"We feel that negotiations are negotiations, they're not preempted by announcements beforehand or by either negotiating with the press or with ourselves. And neither the Peres government or the present government has ever said anything about what they expect the final results to be."

A member of the Palestinian Council, Ziad abu Ziad, said he is worried that the current government's reluctance so far to begin final status negotiations could mean the transitional period could become permanent.

"We accepted to start this process because it will lead to the end of the occupation and will lead to a Palestinian state. If we end by a self-autonomy under Israeli occupation, this is not what we wanted from this peace process, and we don't want the Israelis to continue to intervene in every single item of our life."

Shortly after Rabin was assassinated last November, Beilin showed the proposed plan to Peres, suggesting that the two sides could begin formal negotiations on the final status to reach an agreement that could be taken to the Israeli voters in elections scheduled for November 1996. But he said Peres rejected the idea and called early elections, which he lost.

For his part, Beilin still believes that eventually the compromise solution to a final Israeli-Palestinian settlement will be carried out.

Mubarak Warns of "Complications"

Egyptian President Mubarak, presently visiting in Washington, D.C., says that the paving of new highways in Judea and Samaria will "complicate" the diplomatic process. Arutz Sheva's Arab Affairs correspondent Yehoshua Meiri reports that the Secretary of the Arab League plans to convene the League members in order to discuss the Netanyahu government's development plans in Judea and Samaria.

Beersheva Targeted for Development

Deputy Minister of Housing Meir Porush has announced that the Housing Ministry will invest 170 million shekels in the development of Beersheva in the coming year. The combined efforts of the Ministry of National Infrastructure and the Housing Ministry are expected to turn Beersheva into Israel's fourth biggest city. Porush has given instructions that 8,000 new housing units be sold in Beersheva over the course of the next two years.

Wind-Powered Watts

The Israel Electric Company has completed the construction of an experimental wind turbine in Kibbutz Maaleh Gilboa. The production capacity of the turbine is 500 kilowatts, and its cost was three million shekels. The electricity-production potential from wind in Israel is 500 megawatts.

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