Palestinians Reject Israeli Model for Self-Rule

Article excerpt

AS Arab-Israeli peace talks entered their third round of negotiations, details of an Israeli plan for Palestinian autonomy have further distanced the two parties, revealing a hardening of the Israeli position on the occupied territories.

The Arab delegations representing Jordan, the Palestinians, Syria, and Lebanon insisted that territorial compromise should be the objective of the Washington negotiations, while the Israeli delegation focused on future Arab-Israeli coexistence.

The Israeli proposal for interim self-government arrangements (ISGA), set out in a 10-page document read by this reporter, does not involve an Israeli withdrawal from the territories occupied by the Jewish state after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Instead, it offers limited administrative authority for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, while asserting the continuation of Israeli administrative and military presence.

The Palestinian delegation dismissed the proposal, handed to them Monday, as an attempt to consolidate Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The main obstacle to progress in the talks has been irreconcilable positions on the issue of territorial compromise.

Israel insists that two United Nations resolutions calling on Israel to exchange land for peace do not apply to the West Bank and Gaza. For their part, the Arab delegations have declined to discuss normalizing relations with Israel unless Israel agrees to territorial compromise and a broader definition of Palestinian rights.

Israeli spokesman Yosef Ben-Aharon conceded that the Arab and Israeli negotiators were pushing in different directions. "There was too much focus on territory and Palestinian rights {by the Arab delegations}... rather than on aspects of peace," he said.

This philosophical difference is reflected in the conflicting visions of interim self-government implied in the Israeli plan and in a plan presented by Palestinians during the second round of the Washington talks.

The Palestinian plan calls for interim authority for Palestinians, while the Israeli plan speaks of arrangements and ideas for "peaceful coexistence" that preclude any change in the status of the occupied territories toward ultimate Palestinian sovereignty.

The Palestinian plan also calls for internationally supervised elections for a Palestinian assembly, the transfer of administrative and judicial power to Palestinians, and the eventual redeployment of the Israeli Army to border areas.

The Israeli plan does not refer to any military pullout nor to Palestinian elections. It says Israelis will continue to live in the territories and that "the sole responsibility for security - external and internal - will be that of Israel. …