Hussein brings Israel close to a deal on Hebron

Jordanian king holds meetings with Arafat and Netanyahu

Israel and the Palestinians appeared to have edged closer to signing an agreement on withdrawal from Hebron as King Hussein of Jordan held prolonged discussions with Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, in Tel Aviv last night.

Israeli television suggested the accord would be signed at Erez, the crossing-point from Israel into Gaza, later today by the heads of the negotiating teams. Moshe Fogel, the Israeli government spokesman, said he could not confirm this.

After a press conference last night by the two leaders it appears unlikely that expectations of an agreement will once again be disappointed, although some negotiating is still to be done.

"I think because of the important initiative that His Majesty took we have made considerable progress and I think we can envision the end of the negotiations in sight. There is still work to be done but I think we've made a very important step forward," Mr Netanyahu said.

From the Palestinian point of view, a key concession would be an American guarantee of the date for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank.

King Hussein had brought a compromise formula worked out during an earlier meeting in Gaza with Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader, in co- ordination with Egypt and the US, Freih Abu Meddien, the Palestinian Minister of Justice, said.

He said an agreement was possible in 48 hours. During the Gaza meeting the two leaders spoke to the US peace envoy, Dennis Ross, who cancelled plans to return to Washington, and to President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

The compromise being discussed last night is believed to consist of guarantees by the United States for the agreement, notably a date for the conclusion of a three-stage Israeli withdrawal from the villages of the West Bank, where two-thirds of the 1.3 million Palestinians in the area live.

The Palestinians wanted the withdrawal to be concluded at the end of this year but both they and Israel are now reported to be willing to see the redeployment carried out in 1998.

At a press conference last night Mr Netanyahu, King Hussein and Mr Ross reported a breakthrough in the talks but said that total agreement had not been reached. Mr Ross said that some obstacles had been removed.

Earlier in the day friction on the ground between Palestinians and Israel was clearly visible. Just south of Bethlehem an excavator, protected by Israeli troops, was placing large brown rocks, each weighing over a ton, on a newly tarmacked road which was built in the last week to connect a string of Palestinian villages with the main highway.

"There are 1,000 people living here at Jawat el-Shamat and with the roads closed there is no way in and no way out," said Said Hindi, a local teacher, as he watched several hundred villagers drag away some smaller boulders to allow a doctor to drive down an unpaved road into the village.

The Israeli civil administration said the reasons for closing the roads to Jawat el-Shamat were that they were built without Israeli official permission and that they were unsafe for traffic. But Palestinians see such incidents as symbolising a growing confrontation with a hostile Israeli government, determined in its heart not to give up the West Bank.

Arguing furiously with a policeman, Salah al-Taamari, a member of the Palestinian legislative council, from Bethlehem, pointed to the rocks on the road and said: "He says that if we move them he will bulldoze the whole road. This shows the government's racism, its inability to look at the Palestinians as neighbours and partners in peace."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman, Peter Capaldi and Nick Frost star in the Doctor Who Christmas Special, Last Christmas
TV
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Lawyer - Cheshire

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CHESHIRE MARKET TOWN - An exciting and rare o...

Austen Lloyd: Residential Property Solicitor - Hampshire

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: NORTH HAMPSHIRE - SENIOR POSITION - An exciti...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Engineer

£29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Engineer is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor

£28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Domestic Gas Technical Surveyor is req...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital
In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran