Palestinians show signs of flexibility over settlements

PALESTINIAN leaders yesterday matched the new mood of Middle East compromise by telling the US Secretary of State, James Baker, during talks in Jerusalem, that they would not be demanding a total freeze on Israeli settlement ahead of a new round of peace talks.

Although the Palestinian position remains that all settlement is illegal, Hanan Ashrawi, the delegation spokeswoman, said yesterday that the offer from Yitzhak Rabin, the new Israeli Prime Minister, of a temporary freeze was 'encouraging' and now the Palestinians would await further detail and demonstrations of 'good faith'. She added: 'We did not say (to Mr Baker) that we want to see a total settlement freeze before we negotiate.'

Furthermore, during the meeting the Palestinians signalled to Mr Baker they would not insist that the US maintain its position that release of dollars 10bn in loan guarantees to Israel is dependent on a total freeze. The only condition the Palestinians put to Mr Baker was that, if the US does decide to unblock the money, it should not be spent on continuing building in the occupied territories. Mrs Ashrawi stressed that if newly released US money were used for settlement, this would disqualify the US from its role as peace- broker.

Both Palestinian declarations firmly shelve fears that Palestinian objection to Mr Rabin's offer of a partial freeze might have threatened new peace talks. The Palestinian flexibility will also encourage the US to release swiftly the loan guarantees, frozen because of aggressive settlement by the previous Likud government.

In the strongest hint yet that the loan guarantees are close to being released, Mr Baker said last night, after ending his two-day visit to Israel during which he held his first direct talks with Mr Rabin, that the Bush administration now saw the release of loan guarantees as 'a very high priority'.

The positions set out yesterday by the Palestinians constitute a significant softening of their stance on the settlement question and display a desire to enter fully into the spirit of the new diplomatic game of give and take.

It remains to be seen how much of the new game is bluff. That may only become apparent when the new round of negotiations get started, perhaps next month.

Mrs Ashrawi said yesterday: 'Every time the Israelis go one concrete step forward in terms of changes on the ground we certainly will acknowledge that in many different ways.'

But she also warned that the world does not have a 'predisposition' to see all actions of the new Israeli government in a good light. Her comments also tend to confirm the view that the Palestinians do feel under tremendous new pressure to compromise, now that Mr Rabin is making positive moves and Israel is friends again with the US.

However, as Mr Baker leaves Jerusalem today for a tour of Arab countries he will have strong evidence to argue that there has been enough evidence of new commitment - most notably from the new Israeli Prime Minister - to have already produced declarations of good intent previously unheard of in the peace process.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Life and Style
tech
News
The 67P/CG comet as seen from the Philae lander
scienceThe most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Arts and Entertainment
Ian McKellen as Gandalf in The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies
film
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Koenig, creator of popular podcast Serial, which is to be broadcast by the BBC
tvReview: The secret to the programme's success is that it allows its audience to play detective
News
Ruby Wax has previously written about her mental health problems in her book Sane New World
people
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: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

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