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Netanyahu, Arafat shake hands on Hebron accord

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Signing comes after arduous talks

January 14, 1997
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EST (0430 GMT)

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EREZ CROSSING, Gaza Strip (CNN) -- Israelis and Palestinians signed a long-delayed agreement Wednesday outlining the steps for Israeli troop redeployment from Hebron and other parts of the West Bank.icon (287K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound - U.S. mediator Dennis Ross announces the agreement)

U.S. mediator Dennis Ross announces the agreement
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The signing capped a late-night summit between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat. The leaders shook hands, but neither addressed reporters after their 90-minute meeting.


U.S. Special Envoy Dennis Ross, who marshaled the talks, stood between Netanyahu and Arafat at a news conference immediately after the signing. Ross said they agreed on a protocol for Hebron and also signed "a note for the record" dealing with further West Bank pullouts and other issues.

"Taken together, these two documents represent a very important building block in terms of developing the relations between the two sides," Ross said, praising the "spirit of partnership" exhibited by both sides in the protracted talks.

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  • Both leaders spoke to President Clinton, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein after the agreement was reached, Ross said. All three leaders have been instrumental in Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements.

    The long-anticipated summit was held in a nondescript building at the symbolic middle ground of Erez Crossing, between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

    According to information released previously by officials, the accord says Israel is to give the Palestinians control of 80 percent of Hebron within days. Israel also agreed to roll back its presence in the West Bank in three stages -- beginning in six weeks and ending in August 1998.

    Clinton praises progress


    Clinton quickly praised the agreement, which he said would mean prompt Israeli troop redeployment and a renewed Palestinian commitment to fight terrorism.

    "Today's agreement is not an end in itself," Clinton told reporters in Washington, adding that "active and continuous cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian officials" was needed.

    "The U.S. will do all it can to help. We will do everything we can to build a just and durable peace."

    Clinton also complimented the contributions of Hussein, Mubarak, Ross and Secretary of State Warren Christopher in cementing the deal.

    Ross talks with CNN about what's next

    Ross comments on agreement

    Dennis Ross,
    U.S. Envoy
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  • Effort of both parties
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  • Lack of trust
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  • Ross told CNN he expects the final agreement to be signed within a couple of days. It must first be voted on by the Israeli and Palestinian cabinets.

    "The development of a working relationship is the key," Ross said. For the two sides to develop confidence in each other is as important as any particular problem, he said.

    The diplomat said the Israelis and Palestinians "did need our help," but ultimately the agreement is their achievement.

    "It's not my agreement, it's their agreement. It's not the U.S. -- this is an agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians."

    More negotiations on the outstanding issues will be needed, Ross added. The signing, by the chief negotiators for both sides, is the first concrete step in the peace process since Netanyahu's conservative government took office last year.

    But the fact that neither Netanyahu nor Arafat talked at the post-summit news conference suggested both may have misgivings about each other and the deal, political analyst Chemi Shalev said.

    "Both leaders are going home -- probably they think they've done the right thing, but they're not happy about it," Shalev said.icon (283K/25 sec. AIFF or WAV sound)

    Netanyahu to face some resistance

    Netanyahu faces a potential revolt from the right, with seven of his 18 Cabinet ministers saying they will vote against the agreement and two more wavering. He does not have to win their approval for the deal to go through, however.

    The two sides have agreed to a timetable for a three-stage Israeli troop withdrawal from Hebron and other West Bank areas. Arafat agreed last weekend, under a compromise prompted by Hussein, to let Israel push back the deadline for completing the withdrawal from September 1997 to August 1998.

    The U.S.-brokered negotiations were begun last fall to push along the Israeli troop withdrawal from 80 percent of Hebron that was scheduled for last March.

    About 150,000 Palestinians and 450 Jewish settlers live in Hebron, the last West Bank city under Israeli control. The remaining Israeli troops will serve primarily as protective forces for Jewish settlers living in the heart of the city.

    Correspondents Walter Rodgers and Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.  

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