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?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Content and PR

£35000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Mid / Senior

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing digital agenc...

Recruitment Genius: E-commerce Partnerships Manager

£50000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a newly-created partne...

Day In a Page

Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell