Row looms over next step in West Bank peace

AS YASSER ARAFAT, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, spends the last day of his visit home in Jericho today, a row is looming between Israel and the PLO about what happens next in the peace process. Mr Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, are expected to discuss phase two when they meet in Paris tomorrow.

Israel has drawn up radical plans under which Palestinian elections, scheduled for October, would be shelved and self-rule for the rest of the West Bank scaled down. Redeployment of Israeli forces in sensitive areas such as Hebron might not even happen, according to senior Israeli sources.

On the advice of his lawyers and generals Mr Rabin has begun to doubt whether Gaza-style autonomy, with Jewish settlements cordoned off, can be replicated in the West Bank where settlements intermesh with Arab towns and villages at every juncture. Furthermore, Mr Rabin may fear that extending full self-rule to the rest of the West Bank immediately will bring the Israeli opposition out in force, and could threaten his chances of winning the next election in 1996.

Palestinian self-rule is a five- year transitional phase. In two years' time talks begin on the final status of the lands, which the PLO hopes will be a Palestinian state and Israel hopes will mean a confederation with Jordan. Israel has chosen Mr Arafat - albeit reluctantly - as its partner in the peace process, and does not want to find itself negotiating the final status of the lands with a harder-line leader should Mr Arafat be toppled in elections. Instead, the government has drawn up plans under which Mr Arafat and his interim Palestinian National Authority could remain in power throughout the five-year transitional phase. The PNA would continue to run Gaza and Jericho, and would be given self-rule powers over the rest of the West Bank in about 15 non-contentious areas, such as education, health and taxation.

Mr Arafat, however, who swears in his transitional authority today, has shown new signs during his visit that he wishes elections to proceed, and wants self-rule, on the same scale as exists in Gaza and Jericho, swiftly extended to such major West bank cities as Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron - where none of the benefits of peace have yet been felt. Mr Arafat has been given only a moderately warm reception during his visit to Gaza so far, and he fears that if the process does not move swiftly, his support in the rest of the West Bank might plummet.

The dispute about what happens after Gaza and Jericho has been looming for some time, but has been kept low key, while the first phase of the process has been implemented. Now, however, the Gaza-Jericho phase looks suddenly simple, while extending self-rule to the rest of the West Bank, on terms agreeable to both sides, looks well-nigh impossible.

The main difficulty is that under the five-year transitional phase of self-rule, Israeli settlements are to stay in place, protected by the Israeli army. Palestinian autonomy, therefore, must be built to accommodate the continuing presence of the settlements. In the Gaza Strip, and the tiny enclave of Jericho, this has been possible to achieve as the number of settlements in these areas is limited and they have been easy to block off. In the West Bank, excluding east Jerusalem, however, 134 settlements, inhabited by 100,000 settlers, are spread among the 1 million Palestinians in Arab towns and villages.

With the growing realisation that Jews and Arabs cannot be blocked off from each other in the West Bank, Israeli officials are proposing a different type of self- rule here. First Israeli military redeployment would not be so extensive. Decisions about how Israeli forces will redeploy and to where, will be taken unilaterally by Israel with no negotiation. Israel need only be 'guided by the principle' that forces move out of centres of Arab population, as stipulated in the agreement, say officials, which leaves the door open for forces to stay in places such as Hebron where settlers live in the town.

Israel is also proposing that the Palestinian army, which has entered Gaza and Jericho under the guise of 'Palestinian police', will not be allowed to enter the Arab- populated areas of the West Bank after Israeli redeployment. Only locally recruited Palestinians, trained specifically as police, will be able to operate in these areas.

The problem for Israel when self-rule is extended to the West Bank is not just one of security. Arab and Jewish jurisdictions overlap in many areas of life - town planning, water resources, road building, and infrastructure, for example. Senior officials are advising Mr Rabin that Palestinians cannot be given autonomy in such areas, particularly autonomy with legislative powers. 'It will be a checkerboard throughout the territory,' said one senior official. Furthermore, the Israeli government does not want to hand over any powers which could be interpreted as 'sovereign' powers over West Bank land in the interim phase. While the Israeli government will be happy to get rid of the entire Gaza Strip, when final status talks begin, it will fight to keep large chunks of West Bank territory and does not want, therefore, to set any precedents on the issue of sovereignty.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the Jurassic World trailer
film

Video: The official full-length trailer for the Jurassic Park sequel has dropped – two days early

Environment
The plant ‘Nepenthes zygon’ was donated to Kew in 2004
environmentNepenthes zygon had been growing for almost a decade and helping to keep down cockroaches
News
This artist impression shows a modern-day Atlantis
news
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer snapped celebrities for 40 years - but it wasn’t all fun and games
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
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: Search Account Manager

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an acknowledged...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Central London, Bank

£26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A truly exciting opportunity has ari...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C++, Ruby/ Perl) - £40k

£40000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Systems Developer (C/C+...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital