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>Israel Faxx
>JN May 4, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 83

London Talks are Under Way

By Mark Lavie (VOA-Tel Aviv)

Israeli and Palestinian leaders are in London today for meetings with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This is the latest US attempt to break the stalemate in Israel-Palestinian peace talks dating back to the beginning of last year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian chief Yasir Arafat will be in London, but they are not scheduled to meet each other. That is an indication of the strained relations between the two leaders.

Arafat has accepted an American proposal to overcome the main obstacle to progress -- the disagreement over how much land Israel should turn over to Palestinian civilian rule. The US proposal has not been made public, as efforts continue toward a compromise.

Unofficial reports say the proposal calls for Israel to hand over another 13 percent of the West Bank. The Israelis say they cannot go past 9 percent without endangering their security. At the same time, Netanyahu hints there might be room for movement, if the Palestinians are willing to compromise.

"Not only Israel has to give, but both sides, that is, the Palestinians and Israel have to find ways to address each other's needs and come up with something different from what both sides envisioned in their entry into negotiations. This is what makes for successful negotiations."

The Palestinians say they have already compromised by accepting the American proposal. Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Sha'at feels this is the time for the US to make its proposals public, so the Israeli people will be able to put tough questions to Netanyahu.

"Why have you gone to London and failed? Why have you let the Americans down? Why have you let the Palestinians down? Why have you let peace down? And therefore, the Americans must say something."

One last attempt to get the sides to compromise before the London meetings came from Vice President Al Gore, who worked all night Saturday, but apparently made no progress. He traveled from Saudi Arabia to the West Bank to see Arafat, and then had a surprise meeting with Netanyahu at Israel's airport before leaving for Cairo at dawn. The vice president pleaded with the two sides to rescue the peace process.

"That process has arrived at a critical moment, and we all must work to make sure that we do not allow this opportunity to be lost."

The US has been mediating the Palestinian-Israeli talks since 1994. The current stalemate over relatively minor issues in implementation of an interim accord dates back 15 months.

Albright complains the two sides have been going around and around for months. She warns the US might pull out of the process unless there is movement soon.

Palestinians Threaten Regional Response

By Al Pessin (VOA-Ramallah)

The Palestinian Authority says if today's London meetings between the Palestinian and Israeli leaders and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright fail, Egypt and Jordan have promised a regional response to what the Arab countries see as Israeli intransigence.

Senior Palestinian diplomat Nabil Shaath says the London meetings are not a last chance for peace, but that if they fail there must be some consequences for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Shaath, in Ramallah, says the Palestinians want the US to publicly state that Israel is blocking agreement by rejecting a US compromise plan. And they also expect some response from Israel's other peace partners, Egypt and Jordan.

"We are promised by President Mubarak and King Hussein, that coming back from London we will re-assess the whole situation together."

Israel says the London talks will only succeed if both sides are flexible. But the Palestinians say they have already reduced their demands considerably to accept the US plan, and no further compromise should be required.

Arabs: Last Chance to Salvage Peace Process

By Douglas Roberts (VOA Cairo)

Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak met Sunday with Vice President Al Gore in Cairo. The meeting came on the eve of what is seen as a crucial meeting in London among Israeli and Palestinian leaders and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. Many Arab officials and commentators are calling the London meeting the last chance to salvage the Middle East peace process.

Speaking at a joint news conference following Sunday's talks, Mubarak said he fears what may happen in the Middle East if the London meeting fails to break the long deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

While the Egyptian leader declined to elaborate, many Arab officials and commentators are predicting a failure in London will lead to more violence in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as to a major reassessment by Arab governments of their attitude toward the peace process and moves to normalize relations with Israel.

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