Israel to ratify Palestine deal

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The Independent Online
THE ISRAELI cabinet will meet today to belatedly ratify last month's land-for-security accord with the Palestinians.

The move was announced last night by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office after it said it had received assurances from the United States that the Palestinians would meet a key security demand. The Israeli government will meet at 8am today to ratify the agreement, it said.

Mr Netanyahu had held up cabinet approval of the deal, which formally took effect on Monday, until the Palestinians promised the US they would jail 30 suspects Israel alleged had killed or tried to kill Israelis.

A statement from the office said: "In an extended meeting the prime minister conducted in his office, Mr Netanyahu received the American guarantees to carry out the arrests. At the end of the meeting the prime minister said that now the Palestinians will be tested by their deeds in the field." The statement said the 30 suspects would be arrested in three stages during the 12-week period in which Israel is to withdraw its troops from another 13 percent of the West bank parallel to Palestinian steps to fight anti-Israel militants.

The Wye River Agreement was signed on 23 October in Washington, but Mr Netanyahu said he would not begin implementing the pact until he had cabinet approval.

Earlier, the US State Department had said the Israeli demand for an arrests timetable went beyond the agreement.

t Israel is taking the land of Lebanon - quite literally - to Israel. Thousands of tons of Lebanese soil are being secretly trucked over the border from the south of Lebanon to fertilise the farmlands of Israeli Galilee, the United Nations has confirmed.