Tuesday, November 2, 1999
OSLO – Prime Minister Ehud Barak yesterday presented his plan for a
permanent status agreement with the Palestinians, indicating what
Israel’s “red lines” would be in future negotiations. The discussion
also focused on the principles Israel wants to be set out in a
framework agreement, due to be completed by February 15.
Barak said that Israel’s “red lines” did not mean it was willing to
concede on everything up to those limits. He divided Israel’s
position into three categories:
Vital Positions – These Barak described as positions over which
Israel would never make any concessions whatsoever. They included its
adamant refusal to consider a return of Palestinian refugees to
sovereign Israel and its equally strong insistence on security
arrangements that will ensure that Israel can defend itself, by
itself, in any situation.
Important Positions – These are positions over which Israel will
fight as hard as it can.
Desirable Positions – “On these we will be flexible,” Barak’s aides
quoted him as telling U.S. President Bill Clinton.
The flexible positions will give the U.S. administration a starting
point for trying to bridge the gap between what the Palestinians want
and what Israel wants.
Barak told Clinton that the framework agreement and the permanent
status pact to follow must end once and for all the conflict between
Palestinians and Israelis by providing solutions to all issues – even
if some of those solutions are to be implemented over many years.
The permanent status agreement, slated for completion by September
2000, is intended to lay out in detail the principal understandings
set out in the framework agreement.
After his meeting with Barak, Clinton met with Palestinian Authority
Chairman Yasser Arafat. Barak and Arafat were scheduled to meet for a
late-night session before the the three leaders meet together today.
Following that meeting, a joint announcement is expected on the
opening of negotiations for the framework agreement and on plans for
the three leaders to meet for an extended summit in January or
Arafat said upon his arrival in Oslo that he would not rule out a
summit like the intensive Camp David talks which led to a peace
treaty between Israel and Egypt.
In his meeting with Clinton, Barak outlined the advances in the peace
process since he entered office and the steps that have been taken to
implement the Sharm el Sheikh agreement. He explained the compromise
he had reached with settlement leaders in October over the
dismantling of outposts in the West Bank.
The prime minister also explained his “separation plan” and tried to
calm American and Palestinian fears that the plan was not an Israeli
attempt to economically strangle the Palestinians by preventing them
from working in Israel.
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