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Renewed Mideast Negotiations ControversialAired December 25, 2000 - 4:01 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: In Bethlehem and other parts of the Middle East, there is some glimmer of hope for peace on this Christmas Day. Israeli and Palestinian leaders are considering whether to move forward with a new summit and sign a final peace deal.
President Clinton pushes both sides to return to the bargaining table but, as CNN's Rula Amin reports, some major hurdles could dash the latest hopes for a peace treaty.
RULA AMIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On Christmas Day in Bethlehem, at a St. Catherine's Church, right next to the Church of the Nativity, the Latin patriarch of the holy land told his congregation, "the country is entering a new phase. A state will be born," he said. "We will be free."
A Christmas wish that could turn true; and soon, if Palestinian and Israeli leaders accept a U.S. proposal for a final settlement. Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat says the proposal is being examined carefully, and he said there were still many obstacles. The Israeli prime minister was just as careful; he says negotiations haven't even begun. When they do, they will be very difficult.
But aides on both sides say an agreement is within reach. They even suggest that progress has been made on who controls the holy cite known to Moslems as the Haram al-Sharif and to Jews as the Temple Mount.
YASSER ABED RABBO, PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: There is a step forward towards the recognition of the Palestinian sovereignty over al-Haram, but there but there are some elements which might effect this sovereignty -- this total sovereignty.
YOSSI BEILIN, ISRAELI JUSTICE MINISTER: The major problem with the Temple Mount or Haram al-Sharif is a symbolic one because whatever happens as a result of the solution, the status quo will remain; meaning that the Palestinian or the Islamic Waqf will continue and dominate the area there, that Israelis and others will have the right to go there to this place.
AMIN: Different views, even on the progress made.
But as negotiators inch closer to an agreement, the price of making peace becomes more clear; and for many, it's too high a price.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an expression of absolute weakness by the prime minister of Israel. And even if he will technically agree to it, the people of Israel will never approve of it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Nobody has the mandate to sign an agreement which violated our full rights: the right of return and full sovereignty over Jerusalem and the 67 borders. Nobody has the mandate; and I do believe -- I have full trust and confidence in Mr. Arafat; he will not do that.
AMIN (on camera): If both leaders agree to the U.S. guidelines, they will be invited to Washington to try to hammer out their differences and reach an agreement before President Clinton leaves office in less than a month.
Rula Amin, CNN, Jerusalem.
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