Israel and PLO struggle to keep peace deal alive: Deadlock over troop withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho threatens to destroy public support for pact

EFFORTS continued yesterday to break the deadlock over Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho, amid a growing sense on both sides that the Israeli-Palestinian peace plan is in a perilous state.

It was in Norway that the peace accord was forged earlier this year. Now, with awareness on both sides that speed is essential if support for the agreement is not to disintegrate, there is a new effort to summon up the 'Norway Chemistry'.

Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) ended their two days of secret talks in Oslo yesterday and agreed to meet again in the next few days, a Norwegian official said.

The immediate problem is the wide difference between the Israeli and Palestinian leadership over what 'withdrawal' means.

Israel and the PLO were able to sign their much-hailed 'Declaration of Principles' in September only on the basis that definitions of key words were loose. Three months on, their interpretations of 'withdrawal' appear irreconcilable.

For Yasser Arafat, the chairman of the PLO, withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho must be comprehensive enough to meet PLO aspirations for a degree of sovereignty. For Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, withdrawal must be limited enough to ensure Israeli security.

At the disastrous Cairo summit eight days ago, when Mr Rabin and Mr Arafat were forced to delay the withdrawal, Mr Arafat presented a definition of Jericho which was large enough to take in the entire boundary area between the occupied West Bank and Jordan. According to senior Israeli officials, he then argued that withdrawal should mean that Israel remove all security installations and troops from this boundary.

Similarly, Israel should withdraw entirely from the boundary with Egypt at the southern end of the Gaza Strip.

According to the officials, it was Mr Arafat's demands over withdrawal from these lines that dumbfounded Mr Rabin, who had been led to believe that the PLO understood that Israel's presence in these zones would remain. The peace agreement states that Israel shall maintain responsibility for 'external security' after withdrawal.

However, Palestinians say that Israel faces no external threat on the Gaza boundary, as it has made peace with Egypt. On the Jordanian boundary, Israel would retain the right to monitor potential threats under special arrangements.

In addition to control on the boundaries, Mr Arafat insisted on sole Palestinian control at the crossing points - at the Allenby Bridge between the West Bank and Jordan, and at Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. This is also unacceptable to Israel, which fears that thousands of Palestinian refugees will flood across, as well as so-called 'terrorist elements'.

Yesterday, a compromise formula for control at border crossings was put forward by leading Palestinians within the occupied territories, who proposed a 'two-speed' checking system at the Allenby Bridge. Palestinians wishing to travel to the West Bank beyond Jericho, where self-rule is not yet implemented, could go through Israeli as well as Palestinian checks. Palestinians just entering Jericho should only be checked by Palestinian security.

Although the Israeli side is being led by Shimon Peres, the Foreign Minister who spearheaded the peace agreement, the Palestinians are represented by Abed Rabbo, an official who has insufficient authority to take big decisions. He is standing in for Abu Mazen, who until recently was seen as Mr Arafat's second in command, but who has suddenly refused to take part in negotiations after a dispute over Mr Arafat's leadership style.

Disarray in the Palestinian camp is another cause for concern over the ability of the negotiators to make swift progress. Three days ago 120 influential Palestinian figures from inside and outside the occupied territories signed a petition calling on Mr Arafat to exercise his authority more democratically.

HEBRON - Israel yesterday released some of the 197 exiled Palestinians it allowed to return last week from banishment in south Lebanon, Reuter reports. They had been among the 415 exiled Palestinians expelled from the occupied territories a year ago.

Leading article, page 13

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • 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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power