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>JN Jan. 16, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 10
President Clinton Praises Hebron Accord
But Clinton cautioned more work lies ahead. He said it is a
time to reinforce the commitment to peace. He is expected to meet
separately with Netanyahu and Arafat at the White House soon.
Administration officials say the president will discuss the
remaining issues in the peace process between Israelis and
Hebron Accord is Initialed
By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)
Israel's Cabinet is debating the agreement initialed by Israeli and
Palestinian negotiators early Wednesday morning, providing for the
long-delayed Israeli withdrawal from most of Hebron and some other
West Bank areas.
The doors of the Cabinet room swung shut shortly after noon, on
what emerging ministers report is a very stormy meeting of the
seven-month-old Netanyahu administration. Seven of the 18
ministers have said they will vote against the agreement, and
several others have said they might do the same.
Among those undecided is the Minister of Trade and former Soviet
dissident Natan Sharansky. He visited Hebron Wednesday morning and
spoke to settlers in what he described as a final study before
making a responsible decision.
Right wing and religious ministers oppose Netanyahu's decision to
turn over most of Hebron to the Palestinians, calling the move a
betrayal of Judaism and Zionism. But officials say Netanyahu has
the votes to get the agreement approved. The full parliament is
expected to debate and vote on the accord today.
In Hebron, celebrations by Palestinians were muted by rainy
weather, but preparations were underway to enthusiastically mark
the nearly year-late coming of autonomy, probably this weekend.
The city's Palestinian mayor, Mustafa Natche, said after nearly 30
years of occupation, Hebron's people finally have a reason to
"Of course this is a happy day that we see that there will be
redeployment in Hebron in the coming few days so the situation will
be improved in the city and the people will feel themselves after
a few days that they are liberated like the other Palestinian
The mayor says the people of Hebron now must work to rebuild their
city. He says his biggest concern is that the 400 Israeli settlers
who will continue to live in the Israeli-controlled part of the
city will provoke trouble. Settler spokesman David Wilder says the
settlers have no such plans, and are worried about attacks by
militant Palestinians, who are particularly strong in Hebron.
"There isn't too much we can do about it. If the jeeps (of the
Israeli army) don't want to patrol, we can't push them out into the
streets. We have no private militias. We have no intention of
going to war with Arafat's troops. We don't want to do that, and
even if we wanted to do it, we couldn't. We hope that the Israeli
army will be able to provide us with the security needs that we
need to be able to live here safely."
But Wilder says he does not think the army will be able to do that,
even with the security enhancements Netanyahu says are in the new
agreement. He said Israeli right wingers are very disappointed in
Another settler said that when the Palestinians and US mediators
pushed Netanyahu, he fell over, and then he snuck off in the middle
of the night to sign the agreement.
As expected, the radical Islamic group "Hamas" has denounced the
agreement and rejected any peace dealings with Israel.
The US Ambassador to Israel, Martin Indyk, who helped mediate the
accord, says he believes it will provide new momentum to the peace
"This is a very difficult negotiation which has produced an
agreement which provides a foundation for both sides to work
together and build a future of peaceful co-existence. I believe,
and certainly if you had been in the room last night I think you
would have believed, that Chairman Arafat and Prime Minister
Netanyahu are very committed, personally committed to building that
future of peaceful co-existence."
Indyk says the accord should be a "springboard" for improving
Israel's relations with Arab countries and for resuming peace talks
with Syria. "I think that the impact of that on Syria will also be
positive in the sense that they will not want to miss a train
that is beginning to move again."
The ambassador says the United States will work to get Syrian and
Israeli negotiators together again.
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