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>Israel Faxx
>JN May 11, 1998, Vol. 6, No. 88

Middle East Summit Called Off

By Mark Lavie (VOA-Tel Aviv)

Mediator Dennis Ross has left Jerusalem for Washington after an apparently fruitless round of talks with Israeli leaders. The Middle East summit involving Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian chief Yasir Arafat, planned for Monday in Washington, has been called off.

The Israelis are sticking to their position, defying a deadline set by the United States. The result -- no summit meeting in Washington today. Ross met Sunday with Netanyahu, but no progress was reported.

Israeli sources say there are contacts between Jerusalem and Washington about rescheduling the summit for later in the month, possibly May 22. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's plan was to settle the differences between Israeli and Palestinian positions over Israel's next handover of West Bank territory, and then begin talks on permanent status issues at the Washington summit today.

But Netanyahu continued to balk at the US proposal that Israel give the Palestinians civilian control over another 13 percent of the West Bank. The Israelis say that any amount more than 9 percent would endanger the safety of Israeli settlers by leaving the Palestinians in control of access roads.

Netanyahu proposes starting peace treaty talks while continuing to deal with interim issues like the partial Israeli pullback. Palestinians say that is a trick. Permanent status issues include thorny problems like the future of Israeli settlements, Palestinian refugees and the status of Jerusalem.

The Palestinians ask, if the Israelis cannot settle relatively minor matters like a small pullback, how can they negotiate the bigger issues? Palestinian negotiator Sa'eb Arekat says Netanyahu has no intention of making a deal.

"We believe it is time for the United States administration to realize the difference between a tough negotiator and a non-negotiator, and I think it is time for them to say that they are talking to a man, Mr. Netanyahu, who is a non-negotiator."

As Israel celebrates its 50th birthday, Palestinians are planning a commemoration of their own this week. Arafat's Palestinian Authority is organizing marches in cities in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to mark the creation of the Jewish State. The Palestinians refer to it as al-Naqba, Arabic for "catastrophe."

A Palestinian Cabinet minister said he hopes 1 million marchers will wear tags with the names of villages wiped out to set up the Jewish state, turning hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into refugees.

Hillary's Palestine: Blunder or Test-Balloon?

By Arutz-7 News Service

Israel and American Jewish leaders have reacted coolly to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton's remarks supporting the creation of a Palestinian state.

"It would be in the long-term interests of peace in the Middle East for there to be a state of Palestine...a functioning modern state that is on the same footing as other states," she said, adding "such a development would be "very important for the Palestinian people" and for the "broader goal of peace in the Middle East."

Her spokeswoman, Marsha Berry, then put out a statement asserting that "these remarks are her own personal view. The administration position on this matter has not changed."

Asked during a media briefing whether Mrs. Clinton was as free "as a normal citizen of the country to express a contrary view, given her position and given her association with her husband, who does set administration policy," White House spokesman Mike McCurry agreed that she was "free to be as outspoken as she wishes to be. But I think she also, as she so often does, responds to the very human aspirations that people express."

In response to the question: "Does the president in any way share her view that this would be a desirable outcome?" McCurry said: "The president has but one view, which is the administration's view, that the peace process is defined by those agreements that the parties themselves have reached and the identification of issues that they have declared final status issues are to be resolved in the kind of direct dialogue that we are doing so much to encourage. That's the president's one and only view."

McCurry denied that Rodham Clinton's remarks had been "part of any kind of calculated strategy."

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