Barak reported to have accepted Palestine deal

MIGHTY GAPS separate the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, who will together hold talks with Bill Clinton in Oslo today, but they may have reached an outline agreement in one key area as they explore the path to peace.

Analysts from both sides were giving credence to a report published yesterday in Ha'aretz, an influential Israeli newspaper, which stated that Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state as part of a framework agreement due to be signed with Yasser Arafat in February.

The newspaper said that the condition was worked out during informal contacts between Israel, the United States and the Palestinian Authority before the start of the two-day summit in Norway, which opened yesterday and which will today climax with a three-way meeting between Mr Arafat, Mr Barak and Mr Clinton.

The state, within part of the occupied territories, would not finally come into existence until the eve of the signing of a final agreement. Under the agreed timetable, this is scheduled for next September although, in reality, it is a remote prospect because of the areas of outstanding disagreement. Israel, the report states, would rather do a deal with a recognised state than a temporary entity.

While there may be broad consensus in principle over Palestinian statehood, the same cannot be said of the bulk of Mr Barak's other current negotiating positions. So wide is the gap that the Palestinian chief negotiator, Yasser Abbed Rabbo - who is generally disliked by the Israelis - is rumoured to have taken to referring to the Israeli premier as "Barakyahu", after his intransigent right-wing predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr Barak's so-called "red line" terms include no withdrawal to Israel's 1967 borders; the right of Jewish settlers living in occupied territories to remain under Israeli control; and the denial of any right of return for Palestinian refugees from 1948 driven out with the creation of Israel.

Above all, Israel remains as immovable as ever on an undivided Jerusalem - a critical issue among both the Israeli public and the Palestinians, who also want to establish their own capital in the city, with access to Islamic holy sites.

The difficulty of surmounting these differences was evident yesterday in the guarded remarks of the players as they convened in Oslo, hoping against the odds to reignite some of the optimism on Middle Eastern affairs that the city has yielded before.

Oslo was the scene of the secret talks that led to the 1993 peace accords; a year later, it played host to Mr Arafat, Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin when they received the Nobel peace prize.

In search of new hope, the ghost of Yitzhak Rabin, assassinated four years ago, has been summoned up again in Oslo, with a memorial service today in his name.

But caution is the watchword. "This is the hard part, the really hard part, and we all need to support them," Mr Clinton said.

Mr Barak suggested that another summit be held in forthcoming weeks to work out the framework agreement - prompting speculation that Mr Clinton may stage a meeting in January akin to the Camp David summit in 1978, which resulted in Israel's first treaty with an Arab state, Egypt.

The US President dismissed the idea as "premature", but did not rule it out. For amid the haggling over timetables and "parameters", all three men have specific interests to pursue. Mr Clinton would dearly love to claim the garlands of Middle East peace-maker in the hope that history will remember this rather than his extra-marital romps.

Mr Arafat is keen to involve the Americans in each step of the process, hoping that they will strengthen his dismally weak hand against the Israelis and chivvy the negotiations along.

Mr Barak would prefer to deal with the Palestinains bilaterally - free from American voices chastising him, for instance, over his settlements policy - but he also has his eye on $1.2bn of aid currently stalled in the US Congress.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive + incentives + uncapped comms: SThree:...

Ashdown Group: Reporting & Analytics Supervisor - Buckinghamshire - £36,000

£34000 - £36000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Analytics & Reporting Tea...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future