Israel and PLO get down to nuts and bolts: Jailed Palestinians high on the agenda as Arafat-Rabin peace accord comes into effect

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The Independent Online
WITH a battery of promises and declarations of goodwill, Israeli and Palestine Liberation Organisation negotiators in Cairo started the machinery of the Arafat-Rabin accord that came into effect yesterday. They declared their commitment to economic as well as political co-operation and pledged swift action over the 10,000 Palestinians still held in Israeli jails.

Although Shimon Peres, the Israeli Foreign Minister, and the PLO's head of delegation, Mahmoud Abbas, met as equals, it was Mr Peres who dominated the proceedings outside the conference chamber in the brash splendour of the Semiramis Hotel. 'Shake his hand again, Mr Peres,' the paparazzi cried as the two men went through the ritual gestures of amity for a third time. 'We are the business side of an historic agreement and we shall try to make it into real history,' Mr Peres beamed as a television cameraman crashed backwards off his ladder into a miniature candelabra.

When their two-hour meeting - preceded by half-an- hour of private talks between the two men - was at an end, it was again Mr Peres who dominated the proceedings. At their press conference, it was Mr Peres' colleague, Uri Savir of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, who read the joint communique. It was Mr Peres who fielded most of the questions. And it was Mr Peres who began translating Mr Abbas' replies from Arabic into English. Altogether a polished performance that left the Palestinians looking very much like attendant lords.

According to the short and somewhat oblique communique, Israelis and Palestinians agreed that:

The Liaison Committee headed by Mr Peres and Mr Abbas would meet in Cairo every two or three weeks to deal with policy.

Detailed talks on Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank's Jericho would continue so as to reach final agreement within two months as scheduled.

A Palestinian-Israeli Economic Co-operation Committee at ministerial level would be established immediately.

Egypt and Jordan would be contacted to set up a committee with Israel and the PLO on issues of common concern. The outline agreement says these include the return of Palestinians displaced in the 1967 Six-day war.

Early resumption of negotiations at the Middle East talks in Washington on the powers of a Palestinian Council to run Gaza and the West Bank for the next five years.

If the talks are a gamble, however, the first signs of co- operation could be seen even before they began when a squad of Israeli and PLO security men - the former identified by their triangular red badges, the latter by their white socks - manhandled television crews away from the conference room; here at least Israelis and Palestinians could identify a common enemy.

Mr Abbas confirmed that he had asked for the early release of Palestinian prisoners and the return of deportees. Details were to be worked out at the parallel talks which started yesterday evening between Israeli and PLO delegates at Taba on the Red Sea.

The start of the Taba talks was marred when Israel barred two members of the Palestinian delegation: Amin al-Hindi, the PLO head of intelligence, and Halil Tufatjee, a geographer from east Jerusalem. Israeli security sources said that Mr Hindi was barred because of his role in planning the PLO attack at the Munich Olympics in 1972 when 11 Israelis and five Palestinians were killed.

Mr Tufatjee was barred because Israel said the status of Jerusalem was not on the agenda and the presence of a resident would be prejudicial.


October 13: Israel-PLO accord takes effect. Talks on implementation begin. Authority transferred to 'authorised Palestinians' in education and culture, health, social welfare, direct taxation and tourism.

December 13: Signing of deal on Israeli troop pullout from Gaza and Jericho. Five- year interim Palestinian self-rule begins.

April 13 1994: Completion of Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho.

July 13 1994: Latest date for elections for Palestinian council; redeployment of Israeli forces in West Bank; withdrawal of Israeli military government and dissolution of Civil Administration.


Cairo: overall liaison committee meeting led by Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas, known as Abu Mazen, who negotiated the PLO-Israel accord.

Taba: technical committee headed by Israel's deputy chief of staff, Major General Amnon Shahak, and Yasser Arafat's political adviser, Nabil Shaath, on arrangements for Israeli withdrawal from Gaza Strip and Jericho and hand-over of security arrangements

Washington: third committee to discuss holding elections in occupied terrritories. Fourth to discuss aid to the territories.

Tunis (unrelated to PLO-Israel accord): multilateral talks on refugees in Middle East.

(Photograph omitted)