Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Despite Deal, Palestinian Rule Still Far Off

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Despite Deal, Palestinian Rule Still Far Off

Article excerpt

AN Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank city of Jericho and the Gaza Strip could still be months away, Israeli officials warned yesterday, despite the agreement reached with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Cairo late Wednesday.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin told Israel Radio that although the agreement on security arrangements under the planned Palestinian autonomy regime was "an important step forward," autonomy would not begin "until all the details have been agreed upon."

That appeared to make the original target date for a complete Israeli withdrawal, April 13, quite unrealistic. A senior Israeli source close to the negotiations agreed that all the details of the autonomy plan "will take a very, very long time - months."

That seems more than likely, if future talks maintain the agonizingly slow pace of negotiations so far. If anyone thought that the Israelis and the Palestinians had put their past behind them when their leaders shook hands last Sept. 13, Wednesday's agreement and the way in which it was negotiated showed how sadly wrong they were. The deal was worked out "sentence by sentence, word by word," says Uri Savir, director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry. "And for each word, we have an hour of argument."

Even the security arrangements that Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat initialed Wednesday in Cairo, after two days of intense negotiations, are only general accords, Israeli officials caution.

"We initialed the principles of security issues," says Oded Ben Ami, Mr. Rabin's spokesman. "Early next week, the two negotiating teams will gather in Taba {Egypt} to detail those principles. That will take a few weeks."

Aside from the security questions, the teams in Taba will continue to negotiate the transfer of civilian authority in Gaza and Jericho to the Palestinians, and "all sorts of issues" remain to be dealt with, according to Col. Ami Gluska, a spokesman for the Israelis. Even in areas such as health and education, where agreement in principle has been reached, "the fine details have yet to be worked out, and a lot of work remains to be done," Colonel Gluska adds. …

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