Settlement key to Israel peace

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A freeze on the construction of Israeli settlements for six months is essential for success in the summit next week in Egypt between Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister, and President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, according to Amr Mousa, the Egyptian Foreign Minister. He said yesterday: "I would foresee a success if an agreement on a freeze on this question of settlements would be reached.

The Egyptian and Israeli leaders are to meet next Tuesday at Sharm el Sheikh, the Egyptian resort on the Red Sea. Relations between the two have deteriorated sharply as Mr Netanyahu pushes ahead with fresh construction of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. It is unclear how far the Israeli leader wants the summit or has agreed to it largely to preempt a meeting between President Mubarak and Israeli President Weizman.

Mr Amr Mousa said: "Without the Netanyahu government agreeing to stop or freeze the settlements, particularly the construction on Har Homa, there will be no negotiations [between Israel and the Palestinians]. It is a dangerous, grave crisis, which is liable to bring about catastrophe." It will be the third such meeting since Mr Netanyahu became Prime Minister a year ago.

A poll in the daily Ma'ariv newspaper shows that 62 per cent of Israeli voters are displeased with Mr Netanyahu's performance compared to 31 per cent who are pleased. Some 56 per cent of the electorate are expecting the chances of war to increase, compared to 23 per cent who expect peace. Nevertheless the divisions in the opposition Labour Party means if there was an election there is a good chance that Mr Netanyahu would win it. He may also be right in thinking he can face down Mr Arafat and the Arab world over settlements and ignore American disapproval.

t Jerusalem (Reuters) -- A Palestinian prisoner whose family said he was tortured to death by Israeli police this week may have been fatally beaten by guards at an Israeli hospital, Israel's Haaretz newspaper said yesterday.

The head of Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek hospital said police, not hospital guards, were "dominant" in the beating of Khaled Abu Daiyeh at the hospital when he became violent after refusing treatment.

Police were not available to comment.