Arafat fails to set date for statehood

YASSER ARAFAT, the Palestinian leader, backed away yesterday from declaring an independent state next month at a meeting of Palestinian leaders in Gaza.

He is under pressure from the US not to declare Palestinian independence and he does not want to do anything to help Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, to win re-election on 4 May.

Mr Arafat told some 100 members of the Central Council of the Palestine Liberation Organisation meeting in his Gaza office that Palestinians have the right to declare independence, but he did not name the day when they would.

Earlier, Mr Arafat received a letter from President Bill Clinton stating that the US wanted to wrap up talks on issues such as Jerusalem, refugees, settlements and borders within a year. President Clinton said the Palestinians had the right to be "a free people on their own land" and he condemned the expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank.

Such American declarations, which seldom bring practical benefits to Palestinians, have clearly begun to pall with some Palestinian leaders. Standing outside Mr Arafat's heavily guarded office, Marwan Barghouti, the leader on the West Bank of Fatah, the main Palestinian political movement, said Palestinians had already "signed several agreements with Israel in the White House, but they have never been implemented".

Mr Barghouti said he favoured declaring a Palestinian state on 4 May, at the end of the five-year interim period of the Oslo accords. He said Palestinians were frustrated. A small crowd gathered behind steel barriers some distance from Mr Arafat's office, shouting: "Yes to the state of the free on the fourth of May."

Ahmed Yassin, leader of the Islamic movement Hamas, and three of his senior lieutenants attended the closed session of the Central Council as observers. They said all negotiations with Israel should be broken off.

In recent months Mr Arafat has relied almost wholly on international pressure as a lever on Mr Netanyahu, but without demonstrable effect.

Nabil Shaath, one of his senior aides, said that in many ways the Palestinians already had an independent state in Gaza, but "it is a state under siege".

This siege can be lifted only by agreement with Israel and not a unilateral declaration of independence by the Palestinians, which would not change the facts on the ground. In the past six months Israel has built 12 new settlements on the West Bank, despite expressions of American displeasure.

Workers in Gaza can get into Israel only after stringent security checks. The head of the Israel prison at Erez, one of the main checkpoints, was suspended this week after an Israeli army investigation, started by a soldier's complaint, revealed that Palestinian workers in detention were beaten, humiliated and denied medical attention.

The Central Council meeting in Gaza is likely to adjourn until after the Israeli elections, which Mr Arafat hopes Mr Netanyahu loses. This also enables the Palestinian leader to use the threat of a declaration of independence as a lever on the US to become involved in negotiations with Israel.

Mr Netanyahu claims his toughness prevents the Palestinians claiming statehood. He said yesterday that Mr Arafat "knows that as long as I am prime minister of Israel, such a state, with Jerusalem as its capital, will not be established".

A central theme of the Israeli prime minister's election campaign is that he has stopped suicide bomb attacks, made Israelis feel safer, but has made few concessions to the Palestinians. He had threatened to formally annex parts of the West Bank if the Palestinians declare an independent state.

The Israeli opposition One Israel party has accused Mr Netanyahu of brokering "a honeymoon" in relations between Mr Arafat and the US. But the Israeli leader may calculate that with a US presidential election he has little to fear with pressure from Washington.

There were momentary fears that the bombers had returned yesterday when a car blew up in Rishon LeZion outside Tel Aviv yesterday, killing a child and injuring three people. Police suspect the motive was criminal, not political.

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Sport
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
football
Voices
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Sport
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
sport
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
News
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel
travel
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears