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World - Middle East

Few pleased with Israeli action on Wye River accord

graphics November 11, 1998
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT)

TEL AVIV, Israel (CNN) -- More than 10,000 Jewish settlers and their political supporters rallied against the new land-for-security agreement as the Wye River Memorandum was conditionally approved by the Israeli Cabinet.

"For Sale: State of Israel, a giveaway," read one large banner.

The protesters, including some parliament members usually loyal to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, gathered Wednesday in the same square in Tel Aviv where an extremist Israeli assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 for his peace deals with the Palestinians.

To secure the votes of hard-liners opposed to any deal offering land for peace, Netanyahu attached conditions to the agreement that may provoke a new crisis. Even so, only eight of 17 ministers voted in favor. Five abstained.

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One Palestinian negotiator said his side will not reopen the memorandum to new negotiations.

"He can play games alone and he can implement with his ministers, not with the Palestinian side," said Hassan Asfour. "The Palestinian side will implement exactly what we signed."

Another negotiator said Netanyahu is undermining attempts to establish trust between Palestinians and Israelis.

"He has pandered to all the right-wing elements in his government and coalition, attaching conditions on the agreement that they had wanted," complained Saeb Erakat.

An Israeli political analyst suggested Netanyahu may not have had much choice.

"Netanyahu's political situation is precarious because, in my view, there are people in this coalition that are determined they will pull the plug," said David Makovsky, adding, "They have the votes."

The plan calls for Israel to withdraw its troops from 13 percent of the West Bank in exchange for security guarantees.

The new Israeli stipulations limit any additional pullbacks to 1 percent before final status talks. And Netanyahu demanded that each stage of the pullback be brought before his Cabinet for separate approval, contingent on Palestinian compliance.

The Jewish state also claimed the right to annex portions of the West Bank if Palestinian Authority President Yassser Arafat unilaterally declares Palestinian statehood next May.

Struggle for Peace
 
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    Background:

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  • The West Bank in Brief
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  •  

    Israel also demanded the Palestinian National Council vote to get rid of charter clauses hostile to Israel.

    U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright welcomed the approval of the latest, U.S.-brokered agreement. Her spokesman said Albright called the Cabinet vote of approval "an important step forward in the peace process."

    "With that decision having been made, she believes all concerned must now proceed to implement the agreement as quickly as possible," announced State Department spokesman James Rubin.

    Rubin made no reference to the conditions Israel attached to the agreement that could block its implementation.

    U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke with Netanyahu on Tuesday night about the agreement and about the U.S. showdown with Iraq over weapons inspections.

    An Israeli official said the United States signaled that its tough policy toward Iraq was encountering problems in the Arab world because Israel had not moved forward on its implementation of the agreement.

    The Cabinet debate over the new interim accord was interrupted repeatedly by updates on the Iraqi crisis.

    One man who had picked up his gas mask at a distribution center took the situation in stride.

    "I am now ready for a war with Saddam Hussein. I am, of course, relying on Clinton to save us all," the man said.

    The United States has warned Americans they might want to consider leaving Israel because of the new tension over Iraq.

    CNN Jerusalem Bureau Chief Walter Rodgers and Reuters contributed to this report.

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