Palestinians stall to get concessions: Delegates to the Middle East peace talks spell out their reservations and resentment

WHAT IS a week's delay in resuming negotiations broken off more than four months ago, especially when the subject of the talks is a dispute over land that has festered for almost 25 years? But, by the same token, what can the Palestinians gain from their procrastination?

The answer may be money: the Saudis have offered to resume payments to the increasingly desperate Palestine Liberation Organisation, suspended because of the PLO stand during the Gulf war.

Last night, however, the PLO, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt were preparing to issue a statement endorsing the peace talks. 'The communique is positive. We could not take any decision except the positive one,' said Syria's Foreign Minister, Farouq al-Shara, after meeting his Arab counterparts in Damascus.

The peace talks due to have begun in Washington yesterday were to have been the first Middle East peace negotiations of the Clinton administration. They were to have been the first since the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, created a very real obstacle by his banishment to southern Lebanon in December of more than 400 Palestinian Islamic militants.

For four months, Western diplomacy has sought to persuade the Arab parties to the talks that not to attend would be seen as a victory for the intransigent position of the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, which opposes the peace talks. The three Arab states - Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon - were all keen to pursue their national interests in resuming their talks and not being held back by the deportation iEssue. It seemed, until the last minute, that the Palestinians wTHER write errorould reluctantly retake their place at the table. It was not to be.

The Palestinian objections were spelt out at the end of the week by the spokeswoman to the delegation, Hanan Ashrawi. In 18 months of negotiations, she could see no progress, only a deterioration of conditions in the occupied territories.

There were other reasons. Pique played a part. When President Mubarak of Egypt, a country that is not directly concerned with the negotiations since it already has a peace of sorts with Israel, announced that the Palestinians would be at the table yesterday, they felt they were being taken for granted.

Mr Mubarak's hopefulness was based on the package of concessions that Mr Rabin had told him Israel was prepared to make to the Palestinians to bring them back to the table. First, was a declaration that the December deportations were an extraordinary act, and would not happen again except in extraordinary circumstances. Second, it was announced that Faisal Husseini, acknowledged leader of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, would in future be allowed to head the team, despite being a resident of east Jerusalem, which Israel does not consider occupied territory.

The Palestinians had other real concerns. First, they were unswayed by yet more statements of intent. They wanted a written commitment that there would be no more deportations. This was something Mr Rabin, under pressure from his own citizens to take tougher action to stop a spate of killings of Israelis by Palestinians, was unable to come up with. Second, they were worried that if the US could not get Israel to implement in full UN Security Council Resolution 799, calling for the return of all those expelled by Israel, then there was little prospect for Israel ever complying with Council resolution 242 on the withdrawal of Israeli forces from territory occupied in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

In addition, the lives of members of the delegations and their families had been threatened by extremists, including some linked to Hamas. But the Palestinians could ill afford to be seen turning for protection to the Israelis, whose occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip they are seeking to end. When the Palestinian delegates began their task in Madrid 18 months ago, they must have calculated that they faced real dangers from extreme elements whether they failed or succeeded. Those dangers are likely to increase.

The Palestinians have not done themselves any favours in Washington. No indication was given during preparatory meetings last week that there were problems. The Secretary of State, Warren Christopher, has said he expects only a 'relatively minor delay'. Despite other pressing issues on his agenda, such as sanctions against Serbia and Russia's referendum, he stands firm on a more high- level US commitment to the talks. But his patience is not unlimited.

The Palestinians also knew that this was the last chance to cavil at the talks. For the next round is intended to be a continuous negotiation. And whatever the Arab rhetoric about the need for a comprehensive solution, that is one in which all Arab interests are taken into account, the effect will be to increase the possibility of the Arab states moving faster towards agreements, without being constrained by the Palestinians.

JERUSALEM - Israeli building contractors are threatening an all-out strike if the government refuses to let at least 20,000 Palestinians into the country to work in the industry, AFP reports. Some 70,000 Palestinians were employed on Israeli construction sites when Mr Rabin banned entry for Palestinians from the occupied territories at the end of March in an attempt to curb violence.

Suggested Topics
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone