Arafat and Israel hold secret talks

THE PLO chairman, Yasser Arafat, secretly met Jacques Neriah, an envoy of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, in Cairo yesterday in an attempt to overcome the impasse in negotiations following the Hebron mosque massacre on 25 February.

The meeting was secret because Mr Arafat has ruled out a return to official peace talks unless the United Nations Security Council provides some protection for Palestinians living under Israeli military occupation. Yesterday there was another reminder of their vulnerability when two more Palestinians were shot dead in Hebron in clashes with Israeli troops.

'We cannot speak of a resumption of negotiations before knowing how things work out at the Security Council and the decision that it will take,' Mr Arafat told a press conference in Cairo following talks with the Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak, and the Foreign Minister, Amr Musa.

'We insist that its resolution includes a total condemnation of this hideous crime and stipulates international protection for the Palestinians as well as disarmament of settlers,' he said.

'The evacuation of settlers from the Hebron region is also essential,' he added, referring to the 5,000 Jews in the Kiryat Arba settlement on the outskirts of Hebron, home of the Jewish settler, Baruch Goldstein, who perpetrated the Hebron massacre.

Israel's Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, yesterday questioned the wisdom of keeping 400 Jewish settlers in the heart of Hebron, but he stopped short of saying settlers should be removed.

Western diplomats have for years despaired of the PLO seeking retribution and international recognition of the justice of their cause through tabling UN resolutions, rather than moving to see the implementation of practical steps to end the Israeli occupation. This time, PLO officials in Tunis argue, the situation is different. Mr Arafat needs a UN resolution condemning the massacre and promising some form of international presence in the occupied territories as a figleaf to cover his own impotence.

For that is how even his most loyal supporters in Tunis regard his position. Even in his darkest moments Mr Arafat could count on a bedrock of support among members of his mainstream Fatah movement in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza strip. The credibility of his position, and the legitimacy of his leadership of the Palestinian nationalist movement, rested on this support. Now, for the first time, he is being widely vilified even among Fatah.

What the PLO in Tunis is seeking from Israel and the international community is to move speedily at both the security and political levels. They want the adoption of practical measures such as disarming Jewish settlers to ensure the security of the Palestinians on the ground; and they require measures that will bolster the political stance of Mr Arafat by accelerating the implementation of the Gaza-Jericho accord. In short, Mr Arafat is appealing to Mr Rabin for help. PLO officials warn apocalyptically about 'the volcano' that could erupt if the Israelis do not take urgent actions on both these levels. But they are also acutely aware that the whole strategy of the PLO is now exposed. 'Our policy was to say that all would be all right once we achieved facts on the ground, once the chairman (Arafat) entered Jericho,' confided one political associate. 'This would create an irreversible momentum. That was our thinking. Now we see it will not work like that.'

And, he added, nor could it have done. In fact, if the Hebron massacre had taken place after Mr Arafat's homecoming, this would have exposed still further the limitations of the PLO-Israel accords. For by delaying discussions on the future of the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, they have left a ticking time bomb. The settlements will always be the main point of friction. Although support is growing in the Israeli cabinet for removal of the most fractious of the settlers from Hebron, Mr Rabin is adamant that no such precedent is set.

Mr Arafat is in a quandary. He cannot be seen to be returning to talks with Israel while the rage over the Hebron massacre is still burning, and at least until the 40-day period of mourning is over. Officials are openly talking of activating the secret channel that led to the PLO-Israel accord. And the talks in Cairo with Mr Rabin's special adviser have raised hopes that a way out of the impasse may be being explored.

MARJAYOUN, Lebanon - Seven militiamen from the Israeli-backed South Lebanon Army and two civilians were killed yesterday in roadside bomb blasts on the edge of the buffer zone occupied by Israel's army in southern Lebanon, AP reports. Hizbollah claimed responsibility for two of the bombings.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
Danielle George is both science professor and presenter
people
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
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

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015