Arafat, Netanyahu hold secret meeting
Some 'progress' but no deal on Hebron
January 5, 1997
Web posted at: 10:30 a.m. EST (1530 GMT)
EREZ, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat
met secretly in the early hours of Sunday morning in an
attempt to break the impasse over the Hebron negotiations.
After the four-hour meeting, sources said -- as they have
repeatedly for the past two weeks -- that the two were "very
close" to an agreement, but that another meeting would most
likely be required to seal the deal.
U.S. special envoy Dennis Ross brought Arafat and Netanyahu
together after meeting with the two leaders separately on
"We are making progress but we still haven't reached full agreement on all the issues."
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
Netanyahu confirmed the meeting during a speech to the Tel
Aviv Chamber of Commerce, saying that "certain progress" was
made. But he cautioned that the two had "not reached full
agreement on all the issues."
Palestinian officials said the Netanyahu-Arafat meeting,
which began at 2 a.m., was a positive one.
"Some progress was made," said Palestinian Planning Minister
Under an agreement made with the previous government of
Israel, the Israelis were to redeploy their troops in Hebron
10 months ago. But the government delayed the redeployment
after Islamic militants carried out a series of
suicide bombings in Jerusalem. After
his election, Netanyahu further postponed the move in order
to provide better security for 450 Jewish settlers in
Sources said the two sides have already reached an agreement
on Israeli troop redeployment in the West Bank city, but were
stuck on the issue of a timetable for redeployment elsewhere
in the Palestinian self-rule region.
Further redeployment was written into the original agreement
without a timetable, and Netanyahu has been unwilling to
agree to one in this round of negotiations. Israeli officials
blamed the Palestinian insistence on a timetable for the snag
in finalizing the Hebron deal.
"Mr. Arafat isn't ready to close the deal on the basis of the
agreements that have already been made," said Netanyahu
adviser Dore Gold.
Palestinian officials interpret the original agreement as
calling for three further West Bank pull-backs by November
"There won't be an agreement unless there will be a
commitment on the three phases," said Arafat adviser Ahmed
Despite word from the late-night meeting that a final deal
was closer, others in the Israeli government cautioned that
support for further concessions was unlikely in the Israeli
"If he makes these concessions ... it will be practically
impossible to get approval in the Cabinet," said Cabinet
Minister Natan Sharansky, a Netanyahu supporter.
But Palestinian analyst Ghassan Khatib said Netanyahu
was "giving up to the extremists in his government."
"(He) is retreating from some points that he promised last
week when we were on the eve of a breakthrough on Hebron,"
The impasse over Hebron
has increased tensions in the region during recent weeks.
Sunday morning, as news of the Arafat-Netanyahu meeting
leaked out, a fire bomb was
hurled in front of a Hebron building inhabited by Jews. It
caused no injuries or damage.
But outside the Beit El settlement near the West Bank town of
Ramallah, Jewish settlers began removing mobile homes they
had placed on a hilltop where they hoped to expand their
settlement. The settlers said they had reached a deal with
the Israeli government swapping removal of the homes for a
meeting with Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai.
Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.
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