Christopher counsels Mid-East caution: Uncertainty over chances of meeting Rabin-Arafat peace accord deadline

THE United States Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, had warned against high expectations of his Middle East shuttle. And apparently with reason. Yesterday he suggested he had achieved no breakthrough to avoid a delay in Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho area, set for 13 December.

After talks in Amman with King Hussein of Jordan and the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, Yasser Arafat, he said that 'the difficulties . . . in the last several days in the occupied territories are a reminder of the need to move with determination. It is a complex process of balancing the need to move rapidly with the need to move carefully'.

The violence which has flared in the countdown to the withdrawal claimed more victims yesterday. Gunmen shot dead two Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank city of Hebron, Israeli security sources said.

Elsewhere, Israeli undercover troops shot dead a member of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, in front of his home in the West Bank village of Arura, Palestinian sources said.

Mr Christopher's call for moving carefully echoed the views of the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin. He had said it was preferable to reach a workable, clearcut agreement from the outset, even if this meant delaying by a week or two the implementation of the agreement. This was better than rushing into meeting the deadline and setting off at half cock.

A few nerves are understandable, in the final week before Israel is due to withdraw. After 26 years of Israeli occupation most Palestinians and many Israelis have never known any other rule. Some of the initial euphoria for the Israel-PLO accord has evaporated.

Mr Arafat has staked his personal credibility on implementing the withdrawal in time. Failure to secure it would provide ammunition for Palestinian opponents of the accord who say he is being duped. Palestinians accuse the Israelis of being niggardly in the negotiations when they are thrashing out the details.

The Palestinians miss the point. The Israelis want to withdraw. They want to divest themselves of the territories. Mr Rabin does not see why Israelis should run the affairs of Gaza City, with a population of a quarter of a million, but not a single Israeli resident.

Only a minority of Israelis are ideologically committed to holding on to what they call Judea and Samaria, and the rest of the world knows as the West Bank. Israel wants not territory, but security.

Yet Israel feels it is making the concessions. It is giving up territory. Once Israel made the historic gesture to deal with the PLO, and to pull out of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, it wanted to ensure that the details be thoroughly worked out.

There are concerns about how prepared the Palestinians are to take over the running of the administration. The main issue is security. For without the PLO ensuring security against depredations by militants, none of the other operations of government administration, of levying taxes and paying schoolteachers, will be feasible.

There are differences to be bridged: over Jewish settlements and their security, over who controls the bridges and borders, and over Palestinian security prisoners. But Israel has accepted the principle that one day there will be a Palestinian state. It is working back from there, with one overriding concern in mind: that Israel's security not be compromised.

Despite the difficulties and the extremists' attempts to subvert the process through violence, both Mr Arafat and Mr Rabin have committed themselves so far to peace that neither can afford failure. There are problems, but these are the birth pangs, not the death throes, of the new Palestinian entity.

JERUSALEM - An Israeli court awarded pounds 300,000 to a Palestinian who was blinded and disabled when he was mistakenly shot by Israeli soldiers in 1988, AP reports. Ashraf Mahmoud Ibrahim, then aged 13, was shot in the head while a bystander during a clash in the Nur Shams refugee camp in the occupied West Bank.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
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
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
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'
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

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Assistant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Do you have previous experience...

Recruitment Genius: Accounts Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

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