Arafat, Netanyahu shake hands, begin talks
September 4, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 a.m. EDT (1530 GMT)
EREZ, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- Three months into office, Israeli
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Wednesday was holding his
first meeting with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who
Netanyahu has condemned in the past as a terrorist.
As their talks began, the two leaders reached across a table
to shake hands.
The meeting was taking place in Erez, on the border between
Israel and the Gaza Strip. Talks between the two men could
break the deadlock which has gripped the peace process since
Netanyahu was elected on a platform calling for slowing the
pace of peace efforts, in order to protect Israel's security.
"The relationship between Israel and the Palestinians has
deteriorated badly in the three months since Netanyahu's
election (so) however distasteful it has become for Netanyahu
to meet with Arafat, the Israeli leader has come under
increasing pressure from the United States and other
countries to meet with Arafat and get on with negotiating
peace," CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers reported.
Phone call before meeting
Prior to the meeting, the two leaders spoke by telephone,
Israeli officials said. "The chairman of the PLO, Yasser
Arafat, telephoned the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, in
the afternoon," the Israeli leader's spokesman Shai Bazak
said in a statement.
"During the conversation, Arafat apologized to the prime
minister for the names Netanyahu was called in the
Palestinian press," the statement said.
A columnist in Al-Ayyam newspaper wrote on Tuesday that books
written by Netanyahu showed that he was "more Nazi than
Reuters contributed to this report.
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