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CNN Today

Arafat Meets With Clinton; Israelis Impose New Security Measures in Occupied Territories

Aired January 2, 2001 - 4:01 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: At this hour, President Clinton is trying to persuade Yasser Arafat to accept his Middle East peace proposals. The Palestinian leader entered the White House today with some questions for Mr. Clinton and perhaps some demands as well.

Standing by at the White House for us is CNN's David Ensor -- David.

DAVID ENSOR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, you've heard this line before, but this is a critical day for the Middle East process. A key meeting: Yasser Arafat in there now with President Clinton, should be emerging soon.

He is seeking clarification of exactly what the U.S. believes would be the parameters for an Israeli-Palestinian Middle East agreement covering all the final issues. He wants a lot more details. Mr. Clinton is hoping for the answer yes from Yasser Arafat: Yes, I think that these parameters you've laid out are the basis from which we could negotiate a peace agreement before January 20th.

That isn't very much time. Everyone realizes that. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians nor the Americans are particularly hopeful, but there still is some hope that an agreement might still be reached before the president leaves office. And he's pledged to use whatever time he has left to try to achieve that -- Joie.

CHEN: David, is -- is there a likelihood that Mr. Clinton will be giving much detail, much affirmation of what he is really proposing here to Mr. Arafat?

ENSOR: Well, U.S. officials have said that if Mr. Arafat has questions -- and he does -- they will come back with answers. They will try to specify more. But basically, they're hoping for an answer to their question, yes or no.

Now -- now, the Palestinians, like everyone else, have a Web site. And they have put out -- and perhaps we can look at it now -- some of the reasons that they don't think the U.S. proposal's specific enough.

For example, they say it "divides a Palestinian state into three separate cantons connected and divided by Jewish-only and Arab-only roads, and jeopardizes the Palestinian state's viability," in their view, and they'd like more specifics about why that isn't true if it isn't true.

"It divides Palestinian Jerusalem into a number of unconnected islands separate from each other and from the rest of Palestine," they say.

"It forces Palestinians to surrender the right of return of the Palestinian refugees," who left in 1948. And it "fails to provide workable security arrangements between Palestine and Israel, and to address a number of other issues of importance to the Palestinian people." So says the PLO Web site, which is laying out the objections that the -- that Mr. Arafat and his people have to the plans so far.

Now, the Americans are saying, look, this is just a framework, these are parameters, we can get into the details later. But the Palestinians before they say yes to doing that want to hear more from the Americans and are doing so as we speak -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's David Ensor for us at the White House.

Meantime, the violence continued in the Middle East today, and it continued to buffet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. Now facing re- election, Mr. Barak has said he wants a peace agreement, but at this point, he is drawing a tougher line against the Palestinians.

CNN's Matthew Chance is in Jerusalem.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tight security in force in Gaza and the West Bank. The newly reimposed measures not only seal off Palestinian-controlled areas from Israel but prevent Palestinians from moving freely inside. Main roads running through the Gaza strip have been blocked.

The move comes after more than 40 people were injured in a series of explosions in the Israeli coastal town of Netanya on Monday. Israeli leadership says peace talks cannot go ahead in the present climate.

EHUD BARAK, PRIME MINISTER OF ISRAEL (through translator): With the difficult attacks that occurred in recent day, some with the participation of people from the Palestinian Authority, the situation cannot continue. We cannot carry on having contacts for negotiations with the Palestinians. We must focus, and that is what I have directed the army and the security forces to do: to reduce the terror and to create a drastic change in the area.

CHANCE: In the latest violence, at least two Israeli soldiers were injured in Gaza, but this is the funeral of Sabri Hadda (ph), a 52-year-old Palestinian farmer. Palestinian police say he was shot by Israeli troops as he worked on his land. The Israelis say they fired after an explosion in the area, in accordance with their procedure, which calls for them to immediately shoot in the direction of a blast to prevent ambushes.

The violence comes amid renewed diplomatic efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Yasser Arafat, the president of the Palestinian Authority, has been meeting in Washington with President Clinton for talks on proposals for an agreement. The Palestinians and the Israelis are voicing doubts.

DAVID HOROVITZ, "JERUSALEM REPORT": I think the Palestinian leadership has failed to prepare its people for the need to forgo some of their maximal demands, and unless there is a willingness to compromise from the leadership and it's communicated down to the people, I don't think there is any prospect for a negotiated settlement.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It took almost fully the Israeli position, especially over refugees and over settlements. And as long as the American mediation is biased to one side and not sensitive to the other, it's very difficult to imagine any success.

CHANCE: And as confrontation continues between Israelis and Palestinians, both sides appear to be preparing to blame the other if the latest peace effort fails.

(on camera): But still, the door may not be closed on future talks. Mr. Barak has said he would still consider sending representatives to Washington if there was a resumption of Israeli- Palestinian cooperation on security and if there was a clear end to the violence.

Matthew Chance, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CHEN: Yasser Arafat is expected to speak to reporters who are gathered outside the White House now as soon as his meeting with Mr. Clinton is over this afternoon. We are anticipating that that could come within the hour, so our cameras are standing by at the ready, waiting for Mr. Arafat to appear there at the microphones, as you see outside the White House.

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