Israeli Cabinet passes Hebron deal after tense debate
Palestinian Cabinet easily OKs accord
January 15, 1997
Web posted at: 630 p.m. EST (2330 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- After 12 hours of angry debate Wednesday,
the Israeli Cabinet approved the new agreement on Hebron,
while the Palestinian Cabinet easily passed the deal
redeploying Israeli troops from most of the city and rural West Bank areas.
The late-night Israeli Cabinet vote was 11-7, after former
hard-line allies denounced Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu for betraying the conservative cause. Science
Minister Benny Begin, son of Israel's late prime minister
Menachem Begin, resigned in protest after the vote.
The Palestinian vote came earlier Wednesday evening. Members
passed the historic accord by a large majority, said
Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, but he declined to
provide the vote count.
Netanyahu had worked throughout the day to convince the hawks
in his Cabinet that the agreement, which outlines a timetable
for troop withdrawal, was in Israeli's best interest.
Late in the evening, Netanyahu canceled a news conference
that had been scheduled after the cabinet vote, said his
spokesman, Shai Bazak.
Israeli Cabinet approval of the deal is not required by law,
but it is considered politically crucial to the stability of
Netanyahu's Likud government.
TV report makes Israeli Cabinet jittery
To indicate how sensitive the Hebron debate is, the Israeli
Cabinet suspended discussion for about a half-hour on the
basis of an Israeli television report.
The program quoted an unidentified, low-level U.S. State
Department official as saying Washington would not guarantee
portions of the deal. Washington's support and guidance was
instrumental in making the agreement happen.
U.S. Envoy Dennis Ross, who brokered the talks, promptly
refuted the report. He called Cabinet members individually,
after which they resumed their talks.
Those familiar with the debate said Netanyahu was accused by
one minister of giving away holy land and getting nothing in
return. About 30 protesters gathered outside the meeting.
However, aides insisted that Netanyahu would have a majority
among his 18 Cabinet ministers. An unofficial count was
reported to be 11-7 in his favor. After the Cabinet votes,
the agreement will be considered by the Israeli Knesset or
Ross describes the difficult process
Netanyahu and Arafat finalized the long-elusive agreement in
late-night talks at the symbolically neutral Erez Crossing,
on the border between Israel and the West Bank. Neither
leader spoke to reporters, but they did shake hands.
Ross said in a CNN interview Wednesday that the negotiations
were difficult because of their scope and importance to all
"This was not a simple problem because it has great emotional
and symbolic significance for both sides," Ross said.
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The peace agreement calls for the redeployment of Israeli
troops in three phases, ending no later than late 1998. That
includes 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 the Jewish settlers who live in the heart of the
Details on how the redeployments will be carried out and how
much territory will be turned over to the Palestinians remain
to be worked out. Ross said the new agreement was not
intended to spell out those details, but to reassert that all
phases of the redeployment will be completed.
The accord includes a nine-page protocol on the Israeli troop
withdrawal from Hebron and a three-page "note for the
record," summarizing the agreement on further redeployments.
Accompanying the document are letters from U.S. Secretary of
State Warren Christopher to Netanyahu and Arafat.
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