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No deal for Arafat

January 3, 2001

"In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump."

By John Diamond

[Chicago Tribune - 3 January 2001]:
WASHINGTON: Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat conferred with President Clinton into the night Tuesday, seeking details on a U.S.-authored peace plan that could open the door to a final Mideast summit before Clinton leaves office.

There was no immediate sign of any imminent peace breakthrough. The first meeting was in the Oval Office and included Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, National Security Adviser Samuel "Sandy" Berger and negotiator Dennis Ross. The second meeting took place in the White House residence.

Afterward, White House spokesman Jake Siewert termed the gathering a "productive meeting" in which Arafat "specifically agreed to intensify efforts" to reduce violence in the region. Such pledges have been made before only to dissolve in more violence.

"Words don't matter here. Deeds do," Siewert said. "It will be very important that the commitments that were made translate into actions on the ground."

No announcements about further meetings emerged. Clinton intends to continue his Mideast diplomacy with Arafat and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak by telephone.

The Israelis and Palestinians had each displayed deep pessimism Tuesday that a deal could be reached in the next few weeks.

Barak told Clinton by telephone that a peace accord before Jan. 20 was "impossible" because of continuing violence. Palestinians used the same word in describing the chances of agreeing to a U.S.-backed deal that, in their view, condoned illegal Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.

With violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories intensifying, Arafat flew to Washington to question Clinton about the plan the U.S. president hopes will set the stage for a peace summit as early as next week. Clinton has only 17 days remaining in office.

Clinton returned Tuesday from a holiday break at Camp David, Md., the scene of last summer's failed summit. He did not answer reporters' questions but crossed his fingers when asked about his ongoing Mideast peace effort.

After meeting for more than two hours, including at least a half-hour alone with Clinton, Arafat left the White House abruptly and without comment but then returned late in the evening for another hour of discussion before leaving again. Clinton did not appear with Arafat at the door of the West Wing for a photo opportunity, as has been customary in past visits.

Without using explicit rhetoric, the White House has made it clear in recent days that Arafat is the obstacle to progress on peace talks. Clinton has devoted much of his energy in almost daily phone conversations with the Palestinian leader, pressing and cajoling in search of a breakthrough.

In a peace process that has worn out phrases such as "last ditch," "11th hour" and "make or break," Arafat and Barak confront a narrow window of opportunity for peace.

Once President-elect George W. Bush is sworn in, U.S. and Mideast officials predict a slowdown in Washington's efforts to broker peace as the new administration's foreign policy team deals with more immediate concerns, such as confirmation hearings for Cabinet appointees. And Barak, who staked his career on making peace, trails far behind his conservative opponent, Likud Party leader Ariel Sharon, in opinion polls leading up to Israel's national elections slated for Feb. 6.

At a news conference in Austin, Texas, Bush praised Clinton "for giving it the very best shot he can."

"He's a man, obviously, who is going to work up to the last minute of the last day of his administration," Bush said, adding, "I certainly hope it works."

The incoming administration appears to view Clinton's efforts as potentially removing one major foreign policy headache from its agenda.

Still, Clinton's almost round-the-clock efforts brought to mind President Jimmy Carter's desperate bid to free the U.S. hostages from captivity in Iran right up to the moment the inaugural motorcade arrived at the front door of the White House on Jan. 20, 1981. The hostages weren't freed until after President Ronald Reagan was sworn in.

Clinton is trying to arrange a summit meeting next week in Washington with Barak and Arafat in the hope that at least the broad outline of a comprehensive peace can be reached.

The proposal would give about 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza to the Palestinians as the foundation of their state. A causeway, for use by Palestinians only, would link the two land blocks. Israel would retain sovereignty over the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City. The Palestinians would gain sovereignty over the adjacent Al-Aqsa Mosque complex.

In a major stumbling block for the Palestinians, the U.S. plan supports the "right of return" of several million Palestinian refugees of Israel's 1948 war for independence, and their descendants, but says they may return to their "homeland," not necessarily to what is now Israel. The Israeli government proposes allowing only a limited number of Palestinians back into Israel; a wholesale return of Palestinians, Israelis argue, would threaten the Jewish character of the Israeli state.

Clinton's plan also outlines in vague terms an international security force that would deploy to the region to act as a buffer between Israelis and Palestinians.

In seeking a peace summit, the White House is fighting against an ever-shifting situation on the ground, with each day bringing new acts of violence.

The newest uprising erupted Sept. 29 after Sharon made a provocative visit to Jerusalem's Temple Mount, known to Palestinians as Haram Ash-Sharif, site of the Al-Aqsa complex. Since then, about 360 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed.

On Tuesday, shortly before the Clinton-Arafat meeting began, Palestinians set off several bombs near Israeli army positions, prompting retaliatory firing in several locations that left one dead and seven wounded. Later, Palestinian gunmen ambushed Israeli motorists along a major highway between Israel and the West Bank, wounding two.

The possibility that Barak could be replaced by Sharon has led to speculation that Arafat is anxious to make a deal in the coming weeks on the assumption that no progress will be possible with the Palestinians' archenemy.

"I think Arafat is in a hurry," said Khalil Shikaki, a well-connected Palestinian political analyst and pollster. "He knows that the intifada could lead to a disintegration of the Palestinian Authority and that the American willingness to mediate also may not materialize again with the Bush administration."

Some Palestinian officials termed Arafat's visit with Clinton "decisive" to the prospects for peace, while others predicted no immediate breakthroughs prior to Thursday's meeting in Cairo of senior diplomats from Arab League member nations who have supported the recent Palestinian uprising.

Arafat arrived with a raft of questions for Clinton about a U.S. "bridging proposal" designed to lay the groundwork for a final peace settlement that would end the half-century of conflict.

"This proposal poses a number of serious problems," the Palestinians said in a list of concerns shared with other key Arab states prior to the Clinton-Arafat meeting. "The United States proposal seems to respond to Israeli demands while neglecting the basic Palestinian need: a viable state."

In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

"It is impossible to agree to a proposal that punishes Palestinians while rewarding Israel's illegal settlement policies," the Palestinians said in their critique of the Clinton administration proposal.

The Palestinian questions go beyond these issues to cover virtually every point of the "final status" negotiations, including the disposition of the Jewish and Arab holy sites within the walled Old City of Jerusalem; the issue of the right of several million Palestinian refugees to return to their homes inside Israel; and the pace with which Israeli troops would withdraw from Gaza and the West Bank.

Barak's office issued a statement Tuesday outlining the prime minister's telephone conversations with Clinton.

"The prime minister made it clear that he has deep doubts over the seriousness of Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's intention to reach an agreement that takes Israel's vital interests into account," Barak's office said. "Barak made it clear to President Clinton that Israel intends to continue concentrating on vigorous counterterrorist activity in the coming weeks and said that it will be impossible to sign an agreement within the next few weeks."

If Clinton can persuade Arafat to agree to a summit amid a halt to violence and a resumption of Israeli-Palestinian cooperation against terrorism, "we would consider the idea," according to Barak's office.

January 2001


Leila Khalid - refugee from Haifa, fighter for Palestine
(January 31, 2001)
When Palestinian liberation fighter Leila Khaled hijacked her first plane in 1969, she became the international pin-up of armed struggle. Then she underwent cosmetic surgery so she could do it again. Thirty years on, she talks to Katharine Viner about being a woman at war.

The end of Israel?
(January 30, 2001)
At a time with rampant current events breaking daily, often hourly, there is much need to remember the importance of sometimes taking time for reflection, of sometimes stepping back to contemplate both the past and the future.

Sharon - the REAL legacy of Clinton and Barak
(January 30, 2001)
As the Barak era fades from view -- more short-lived than anyone predicted just a long year and a half ago -- his epitaph is already being written and Ariel Sharon's government and policies are already being debated.

Looming civil war in Palestine
(January 29, 2001)
Fears are growing in the international community that Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority (PA) is heading for collapse.

Arafat blasts, Peres maneuvers, Barak sinks
(January 29, 2001)
For all practical purposes Ehud Barak is gone and Yasser Arafat is now desperately trying to save his own skin.

Barak's 3 no's, and Bush's 7 minute call
(January 28, 2001)
The Americans leaked it, a 7-minute Saturday call from the new U.S. Pres to the sinking Israeli PM -- leaked its brevity that is.

The Bomb and Iraq
(January 28, 2001)
As war clouds gather in the Middle East public opinion is being prepared for a possible regional war that could likely include a combined Western/Israeli effort to take out the weapons of mass destruction in Syria, Iraq and Iran.

The "nuts" in the next room
(January 27, 2001)
In recent years Israel's most important and serious newspaper, Ha'aretz, has taken to not only reporting Palestinian affairs much more deeply but to interviewing major Palestinian personalities abroad.

Get ready for Prime Minister Sharon
(January 27, 2001)
The new Ma'ariv-Gallop poll questioned a particularly large sample of 1,100 people, putting special emphasis on the Arab population and new immigrants.

Panic in the Barak camp
(January 27, 2001)
All the tricks and lies of the Israeli Labor Party have now come back to haunt it. Barak, never a politician, bears the brunt of popular blame for all the political deceptions and tricks that have for so long accumulated.

War alert in Europe and Middle East
(January 27, 2001)
We've noted the "war fever" growing in the region for some months now. There's considerable anxiety about who may now strike first.

Israeli and Jewish soul-searching
(January 26, 2001)
The Intifada, coupled with Israeli brutality and recognition that the term "Apartheid Peace" is in fact applicable after all, are having an effect on at least some Israelis and some Jews; even while Ariel Sharon marches to the Prime Minister's office in Jerusalem (and maybe because of this).

"Disastrous" American intervention
(January 26, 2001)
ou've got to wonder about these Palestinian "negotiators". What others saw decades ago those who have been most involved are apparently beginning to see only now.

Sharon marches on, Barak stumbles on
(January 25, 2001)
The 554,000 Arabs eligible to vote represent 12.3 percent of the electorate. The Arab turnout in 1999 was 76%, and 95% voted for Barak.

An alliance of the outcasts? Iran, Iraq and Syria
(January 24, 2001)
So the Israelis are going to elect war-criminal tough-guy General Ariel Sharon to be Prime Minister. This after the most top-heavy military-intelligence government in peacetime history for Israel -- that of General Ehud Barak.

General Powell says no to sanctions on behalf of Corporate America
(January 23, 2001)
Hamas has struck again and the "negotiations" are "suspended" again. Two Israelis were assassinated by masked men while eating at a restaurant in Tulkarm. Though this time it was Israelis who were killed it was another warning to Yasser Arafat. Last week similarly masked men in Gaza killed a close Arafat friend, the head of Palestinian TV in Gaza, just as it was rumored Arafat was about to sign some kind of new deal with the Israelis.

EyeWitness Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa
(January 23, 2001)
The depressing element of this entire struggle is that the Arafat regime survives and...will be the one to ultimately determine the fate of the Palestinian people.

War Fever - Israel and Syria
(January 23, 2001)
Tensions continue to grow in the Middle East region, armies continue to prepare, public opinion continues to be manipulated. Though Ehud Barak too is a militarist -- a former commando, General, and Chief of Staff of the Army -- Ariel Sharon brings with him historical baggage and war-criminal image which could easily contribute to a clash of armies sooner rather than later, even if not fully intended by either side.

EyeWitness Gaza
(January 22, 2001)
A year or so ago, I visited the Mouwasi area in Gaza. It was a green paradise, on top, and in the midst, of white sand dunes. I particularly remember this Guava grove, where the guavas hanging from the trees were the size of large oranges; I hadn't seen anything like that ever before.

Reaping what they have sown
(January 22, 2001)
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abruptly cut short a radio interview on Sunday after being asked about his poor showing in opinion polls, prompting speculation he was buckling under pressure of a February 6 election.

Israel's president departs
(January 21, 2001)
There has never been, and there probably never will be, a president who had such fantastic relations with the State of Israel. It's unbelievable.

Ross officially join Israeli lobby
(January 19, 2001)
During the Lebanon War of 1982 -- some think of it as Sharon's war -- the Israelis and their American Jewish friends felt they had a difficult time when it came to public relations. And when the American Marines pulled out, symbolizing the failure of the Israelis to force Lebanon into the American-Israeli orbit and out of the Syrian-Arab one, the Israelis realized that they had much power in Washington on Capitol Hill, but not enough power with the media, intellectuals, and think-tanks.

War preparations in Israel
(January 19, 2001)
It's always called "The Peace Process" but more behind-the-scenes the whole Middle East region continues to be an arms bazaar with more weapons being sold to the countries in the area than ever before, most by American arms merchants and allies.

Palestinian TV Head killed
(January 17, 2001)
It may have been a warning to Arafat not to dare sign any new agreements, as has been rumored in the past few days he was planning to do tomorrow in fact. It may have been another Israeli assassination - though usually they don't take such risks and use such methods, strongly preferring instead to use high-technology and long-distance means.

Iraq, Saddam and the Gulf War
(January 17, 2001)
It was 10 years ago yesterday that the U.S. unleashed the power of the Empire against the country of Iraq after created the regional conditions that lead to the Iraq-Iran and then the Iraq-Kuwait-Saudi wars. In that period of time somewhere in the number of 1.5 million Iraqis have been killed, the history of the Middle East altered, the future of the region more uncertain and dangerous than ever.

Last night in Gaza ghetto
(January 16, 2001)
It's quite a game of international political brinkmanship. At the same time that Yasser Arafat is being tremendously pressured, and quite possibly further tricked, to sign some kind of "framework agreement" with Clinton and Barak before it is too late -- his regime is also being threatened with extinction both from within and without.

Generals Sharon and Barak as politicians
(January 16, 2001)
With Jan 20 (Clinton leaves office) and Feb 6 (Barak likely to be defeated by Sharon) fast approaching, desperation and near panic are evident in the traditional power centers, including various Arab capitals.

"Unilateral separation" one way or another
(January 15, 2001)
The separation plan would go into the event of one of the following three scenarios: as a response to a unilateral declaration of statehood on the part of the Palestinians; under a severe security threat; or as part of an agreement with the Palestinian Authority

Up in arms against Apartheid
(January 13, 2001)
At the end of the second millennium, three million Palestinians are imprisoned in ghettoes by the very man whom the Palestinian leadership hailed as the saviour of peace. Netanyahu had driven the peace ship off course. Barak scuttled it.

Locking in Oslo
(January 12, 2001)
The Americans and the Israelis continue to try to twist the screws. Their minimum goal now is to "lock in" the "Oslo Peace Process" approach to the conflict. It may be an "Apartheid Peace", and it may have resulted in considerable bloodshed, but even so it is leading to a form of "Palestinian Statehood" and "separation" that the Israelis strongly desire as the best alternative for themselves.

Sharon charges on
(January 12, 2001)
he long-serving (now recalled to Cairo) Egyptian Ambassador to Israel was quoted saying last week that if an Israeli-Palestinian agreement isn't reached in the next two weeks there won't be an agreement for the next two decades.

"Sharon leads to peace"
(January 11, 2001)
The last time the Israeli "Arab vote" was pushed toward Shimon Peres for Prime Minister -- back in 1996 -- there was much resistance. Then Peres was acting Prime Minister after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Army had just committed the Qana massacre in Southern Lebanon, and Peres was busy trying to cover it up.

Grandfather Sharon
(January 10, 2001)
If the polls remain as disastrous as they now are for Ehud Barak, expect him to be pushed out and Shimon Peres substituted. Barak has no chance; Peres has some, especially with the "Arab vote".

The Dangerous weeks, months ahead
(January 10, 2001)
Guys like Commando-General-Prime Minster Ehud Barak don't go easily from the scene. Barak's daring-do was lavishly praised just a few years ago; now it has even the military types fretting. No telling just what Barak and friends might try in the next few weeks.

Assissination, siege and war crimes
(January 9, 2001)
The Israeli government, both as a group and as individuals, bears full responsibility for the crimes that were committed. We will do everything possible, including declaring members of this government war criminals who are eligible for trial by the world tribunal." Palestinian Authority "Minister"

Soul-searching Israelis
(January 9, 2001)
The "liberals" among them, the most cosmopolitan and internationally-oriented of the Israelis, are now getting extra nervous. Not only is Ariel Sharon coming to power, not only is regional war possible, not only are the cold treaties with Egypt and Jordan in jeopardy, but even Israel's future has come into question

Israel acts while Arafat talks
(January 8, 2001)
srael continues to take major steps designed to shrink, isolate and control the Palestinian areas forever. The policy is termed "unilateral separation" and it is linked to bringing about a so-called "Palestinian State" that serves Israeli interests, making everything worse than ever for the Palestinian "natives".

Clinton's Israel speech
(January 8, 2001)
On his way out the Presidential door Bill Clinton went to New York City to speak to his American Jewish supporters and further grease his way toward his future. This is the Bill Clinton that turned the U.S. government over to the Israeli/Jewish lobby in his years in office; of course pretending otherwise.

Specter of an "ugly future"
(January 5, 2001)
Lofty, humanitarian goals like 'peace and democracy'? No, America's primary interest in the Middle East is effective control of the world's most important energy reserves, Noam Chomsky tells Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
Did President Hindenburg and the German intelligentsia feel this way in 1930s when they saw that Adolf Hitler, and his brownshirt thugs, were about to be elected to power?

Barak and Sharon
(January 5, 2001)
While the Labor "Doves" are busy running ads in Arab papers showing dismembered corpses in Palestinian Refugee Camps -- with the caption "Sharon" -- the reality is that Generals Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon are more two of a kind than anything else.

Arab nations add their voices to the chorus of despair
(January 4, 2001)
All chance of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians in the near future is vanishing, destroyed by hardening opinions on both sides, continuing violence, the precarious position of the political leaders involved and disagreements over key issues.

Darling of American Jewry
(January 4, 2001)
Over the years, most of the strongest advocates of Israel have usually been people who are not Jewish....[I] look forward to working with him...

Barak publicly warns of regional war
(January 4, 2001)
Amid veiled threats from the Israelis to start targeting even more senior Arafat Regime persons, and even to bring the Arafat "Palestinian Authority" to an end, Ehud Barak has also started publicly talking about the possibility of regional war.

No deal for Arafat
(January 3, 2001)
In particular, the Palestinians are concerned that the proposed settlement would create Palestinian territorial islands separated from each other by Israeli territory and therefore not viable as a nation. They object to a proposed land swap that would allow some Israeli settlers to remain on the West Bank in exchange for land that the Palestinians claim is desert and a toxic waste dump.

Arafat rushes to Washington
(January 2, 2001)
Clinton and the Israelis have set the stage for the last act of their multi-year drama attempting to trap the Palestinians on controlled reservations and calling it "an end to the conflict". But like a modern-day computer game the users can interact and change the outcome to various scenarios.

Top Palestinian Leader in the Arafat Regime
(January 2, 2001)
The whole house of political quicksand built by Bill Clinton at the behest of the Israelis (and popularly known as the "Peace Process") is bubbling, steaming, and swallowing many of its key participants.

Arafat hangs up on threatening Clinton
(January 1, 2001)
The coming issue of TIME magazine reports that Arafat hung up the phone receiver on Clinton a few days ago, turning to an aide and saying: "He's threatening me!

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