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World - Middle East

Israeli parliament approves Wye River accord

Heated debate in the Knesset marked Tuesday's approval of the deal with the Palestinians  
November 17, 1998
Web posted at: 9:58 p.m. EST (0258 GMT)

JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Nearly four weeks after the signing of the Wye accord in Maryland, Israel's parliament overwhelmingly threw its support behind the land-for-security deal Tuesday. The Knesset approved the agreement by a vote of 75-19, with nine abstentions.

The endorsement was seen as a vote of confidence for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He plans to hold a Cabinet meeting Thursday to approve the first stage of redeploying Israeli troops, which could take place as early as Friday. Under the Wye accord, Israel has three months to withdraw from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank. Palestinians already control 27 percent of the territory.

After viewing maps of the withdrawal, right-wing Knesset members expressed concern the pullback would leave some Jewish communities too isolated. One member of Netanyahu's coalition, Michael Kleiner, called the deal a "fraud."


On Monday, the Middle East deal seemed in jeopardy, when Netanyahu suspended its implementation, blaming Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat for suggesting Palestinians could take up arms to defend their rights.

In a radio address to the Palestinian people on Sunday, Arafat said, "Our guns are ready" if anyone tries to hinder Palestinian rights in Jerusalem.

But the Palestinian Authority president, speaking at a news conference in the West Bank town of Jericho on Tuesday, said: "I ... reiterate that any problems concerning final-status negotiations will be resolved through amicable and peaceful ways and through negotiations, but not through any other means."


The final-status talks referred to by Arafat are to address such controversial issues as the status of Jerusalem, which Israel says will remain undivided, but which Palestinians would like to see as the capital of an independent state of Palestine.

Netanyahu adviser David Bar-Illan said Arafat's clarification of his earlier remarks met all three of Israel's demands: "that only negotiations can bring about a final-status agreement, that there will be no resorting to 'any other way,' which to us means that he is disavowing any use of violence or threats of violence; and lastly, there is a promise here to continue cooperating in the war against terrorism."

Correspondent Jerrold Kessel and Reuters contributed to this report.

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