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
Voices
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
News
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Sport
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
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
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas