Hebron deal is signed after midnight meeting

Israel and the Palestinians early this morning signed an agreement on Israel's long-delayed pullout from most of the city of Hebron and parts of the West Bank.

"The agreement has been signed," said Shai Bazak, spokesman for the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, after a 90-meeting meeting that began after midnight between the Israeli leader and his Palestinian counterpart, Yasser Arafat.

The agreement, which caps four months of tortuous negotiators brokered by a US envoy, Dennis Ross, was reached at a summit on the Israel-Gaza border.

PLO officials said the initialling took place in a room without reporters. A public signing ceremony attended by Israeli and Palestinian leaders along with European, Arab and American representatives will be held on Friday.

PLO officials said the agreement stipulates an Israeli withdrawal from 80 per cent of Hebron within 10 days.

Mr Bazak said the agreement was signed by Israel's chief negotiator, Dan Shomron, and his Palestinian counterpart, Saeb Erekat, and that Mr Netanyahu and Mr Arafat were speaking by phone with President Bill Clinton.

Israeli troops will withdraw almost immediately from most of Hebron. The city has a population of 120,000, in the centre of which live 52 Jewish families. To protect them, Hebron will be partitioned, with 20 per cent of the city remaining under Israeli control. This part of the accord is little different from that signed by the last Israeli government in 1995.

Under a further part of the accord, brokered by King Hussein of Jordan at the weekend, Israel has promised to redeploy its troops on the West Bank and evacuate Palestinian villages in three stages, completing the withdrawal by 31 August 1998. This is a year later than agreed in the original Oslo Two accords, signed in 1995.

There is no understanding about the extent of the territory over which Israel is to cede control. Mr Arafat expects 90 per cent of the West Bank but Mr Netanyahu says Israel may only withdraw from half, keeping the Jordan valley, the desert east of Jerusalem and other "specified military locations". Vagueness about the extent of Israeli redeployment sets the scene for future political crises.

More immediately, Israeli and Palestinian leaders have to resolve other issues, including the extradition to Israel of Palestinians who have killed Israelis, the veto over appointments to the Palestinian police in Hebron and amendments to the Palestinian covenant, which Israel says urges Israel's destruction.

Also to be addressed in the accord are the Palestinian demands for the opening of a passage between Gaza and the West Bank, the release of prisoners and the Palestinian airport being built at Gaza.

Mr Netanyahu and his advisers are saying future redeployment hinges on the Palestinians fulfilling their part of the agreement. Such is the distrust that the US is to issue guarantees that the two sides will meet their commitments.

Mr Arafat'sstrategy of refusing to make an agreement on Hebron alone, but to demand dates for further Israeli redeployment from the villages, where 900,000 out of 1.3 million Palestinians on the West Bank live, appears to have paid off.

He is also on the verge of getting a commitment from a right-wing Israeli government to give up land on the West Bank, which many of its members see as the Land of Israel, the land God gave to the Jews.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

£70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions