Weizman to meet Arafat after PLO makes plea for help

Israeli accord: Netanyahu set to support Palestinian talks

President Ezer Weizman, an architect of Israel's 1979 peace treaty with Egypt, responded yesterday to a cry for help from Yasser Arafat by inviting the Palestinian leader to meet him at his private seaside villa at Caesarea in northern Israel.

The invitation appeared to spur the right-wing Likud Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu into meeting Mr Arafat as well.

Last night, Israeli radio announced: "As of now, President Weizman, Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai will meet within two weeks with Yasser Arafat."

Since his election in June, the Prime Minister has prevaricated over setting a date for a meeting with the PLO leader.

A spokesman for the President told The Independent last night that the meeting with Mr Weizman would take place before the Jewish new year, which is on 14 September. Asked whether Mr Weizman would co-ordinate the arrangements with the Prime Minister, he replied: "Maybe, maybe not."

Mr Weizman's initiative places the spotlight on a growing anxiety in Israel's defence, political and media establishment that the Netanyahu government is playing for time and no longer sees a need to maintain the peace momentum. Israelis who had begun to enjoy a more open Middle East suddenly are feeling isolated.

Gideon Ezra, a Likud backbencher and former deputy chief of the Shin Bet internal security service, said yesterday: "It is time to stop playing games with the Palestinians."

The daily Ha'aretz this weekend quoted one senior security official that foot-dragging could provoke renewed attacks by Islamist fanatics. Mr Arafat was coming under increasing pressure, the official said, because of the diplomatic stagnation, the collapse of the Palestinian economy and the violation of human rights by the Palestinian police. "If his distress continues," he added, "Arafat may allow his security forces to ease up on Hamas, and he won't care if there are terror attacks."

After a hastily arranged tete-a-tete with the Prime Minister yesterday, President Weizman denied he had threatened to receive Mr Arafat this week if Mr Netanyahu did not agree to talk to PLO leader within 10 days. He also denied he was trying to take over the negotiations. But the 72- year-old President, who has been a minister under both Likud and Labour colours, was clearly in no mood to accept a prime ministerial veto, or to wait long. Mr Weizman said he had received a letter from Mr Arafat complaining about the stalled peace process. "He is in distress," the President said. "Arafat, whether we want it or not, today has control over two million people. When a leader like this asks to see me, I think I must respond to him."

Despite the unconfirmed report on Israel radio that Mr Netanyahu would meet Mr Arafat, the Prime Minister was still stonewalling. "I don't think it is worthwhile," he insisted, "to hold a meeting that is just ceremonial. When the time comes when I think there will be a purposeful meeting, it will indeed take place."

The Hebrew press, which has never been friendly to Mr Netanyahu, has become universally hostile. Yoel Marcus, Ha'aretz's widely read columnist, detected a reversion to hard-line Likud ideology, which he feared would lead to armed struggles with Palestinians and Syrians. "When the voice is the voice of Netanyahu's pragmatism," he wrote, "but the hands are the hands of a Likud ideologue, the confrontation is written on the wall." His colleague, Zvi Barel, added: "Netanyahu's government is returning Israel to the familiar situation in which it functions best: a small nation surrounded by enemies."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
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: Digital Designer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity for someone wi...

Recruitment Genius: Building Manager / Head Porter

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Medical Copywriter / Account Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join an awa...

Recruitment Genius: Transport Clerk / Debriefer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading temperature contro...

Day In a Page

Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific