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>Israel Faxx
>JN April 8, 1997, Vol. 5, Number 62

Clinton Doesn't Rule Out Camp David Approach

By David Borgida (VOA-White House)

President Clinton has met at the White House with visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in an effort to revive stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. The president is not ruling out a proposal by Netanyahu that Clinton sponsor talks similar to those conducted 20 years ago at the Camp David presidential retreat by then-president Jimmy Carter.

But the president first wants to find a diplomatic course agreeable to both the Israeli and Palestinian sides. Clinton hedged on that issue, saying only that he would not rule out any plan but that one might be "premature."

"I think it is important not to jump the gun on that," Clinton said before his meeting with Netanyahu. "I wouldn't rule out any reasonable opportunity for me to make a positive contribution. But we have to have the conditions and understandings necessary to go forward. The most important thing is to get the thing going again."

With Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat insisting Israel stop building Jewish settlements on disputed land, and Netanyahu asserting no change in his government's settlement policy, Clinton is facing one of his toughest challenges in his role as a Middle East intermediary.

Clinton categorized the meeting as "long and very thorough," but cautioned that there was a lot of work to be done to get the peace process "back on track."

"We had a very specific, frank, candid and long talk. And now we're going to talk to the Palestinians and see if there's something we can do to get this thing going again. We'll do our very best and I'll do my best and that's all I think I should say right now."

Netanyahu had previously proposed that Israel and the Palestinian Authority should begin so-called final status talks immediately, pointing to a conclusion within six months.

A Palestinian delegation will be here later this week as a follow-up to the meeting with Netanyahu. Clinton hopes he can restore security and build confidence in the peace process -- which has been in jeopardy since Israel began work last month on a controversial housing project in east Jerusalem. When Netanyahu was here in February, Clinton reiterated his opposition to the settlement.

But underscoring the delicate diplomatic balancing act he faces, before his meeting with Netanyahu, Clinton said there should be zero tolerance for terrorism -- a comment aimed at Israel's concern about Palestinian demonstrations and violence that have erupted since the construction on the east Jerusalem settlement began. Netanyahu has said he will not make concessions in the face of terrorism.


Arafat Says Israel Declared War on Palestinians

By Michael Drudge (VOA-New Delhi)

Palestinian Chairman Yasir Arafat says Israel has virtually declared war on the Palestinian people with its troop deployments and Jewish settlement practices. Arafat is in New Delhi, seeking support at a non-aligned movement foreign ministers' meeting.

Arafat has unleashed a scathing verbal attack on the Israeli government. Speaking through an interpreter, Arafat blasted Israel's expansion of Jewish settlements around Jerusalem and its troop mobilizations.

"Military troops are now surrounding the Palestinian cities and towns. This, in fact, is tantamount to a declaration of war, not only against the Palestinian people, it is a declaration of war against the peace process."

Arafat spoke at a meeting in New Delhi of foreign ministers from the 113-nation Non-Aligned Movement, which has long backed the Palestinian cause. He is asking the group to support a special United Nations General Assembly session on the Middle East crisis.


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