Angry Israelis end peace-for-land deal after latest bombs

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The Independent Online
Israel says it no longer feels bound by the Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians under which it was pledged to return most of the occupied territories captured in 1967.

At the same time Palestinian leaders ruled out mass arrests of Islamic militants, while stressing that they would not tolerate the use of autonomous Palestinian enclaves by organisations planning suicide bomb attacks.

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said after a cabinet meeting that "we decided that the process in which Israel, time after time, hands land to the Palestinian Authority, and then murderers use these territories as their launching ground, shall not continue."

In Washington Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator, said the Palestinian Authority would not make arrests without specific charges, despite the suicide bombing last Thursday which killed four people in Jerusalem. He said the policy of Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, "will continue to be a policy of zero tolerance to terror and violence, whether committed by Israelis or Palestinians against Palestinians and Israelis." The Israeli decision to suspend withdrawals from the West Bank and Gaza appears to abandon finally the peace-for-land formula which was the basis of the Oslo accords of 1993. However, the last two stages of the withdrawal had failed to take place this year because the Palestinians said the territory given to them was too small. Israel has hinted at retaining 60 per cent of the West Bank.

Mr Netanyahu is in a strong position for dealing with Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of State, when she arrives here later this week. In the wake of the latest bombing he can justify his failure to implement the Oslo accords. Palestinians will argue, for their part, that the 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza would not accept mass arrests of hundreds of Hamas members without some Israeli concessions.

Egypt will host a summit with Jordan and the Palestinians today in the wake of the suicide bombing, a senior Egyptian official said yesterday.

The official, who refused to be named, said the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, would meet King Hussein of Jordan and Mr Arafat at the Qubba presidential palace in Cairo to discuss "the challenges facing the Middle East peace process".

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