Worthy Christian News » Israel-Palestinian Conflict » Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/21/2001
Middle East Crisis Headlines - 1/21/2001
Israel and the Palestinians begin a new round of peace talks today in a last ditch effort for an agreement before elections on February 6th. The Israeli cabinet agreed to the Palestinian proposal for the talks at a special cabinet meeting last night. However, both sides are playing down expectations. "In the short time left, with the gaps that exist, the chance of bridging them is not great," Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Army Radio today.
Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat concurred. "I don't want to raise anyone's expectations," he said. "We're going to exert maximum effort, but I also don't want to undermine the gaps that exist on all issues." The ministerial-level talks, expected to last a week to 10 days, will be held in Egypt's Red Sea resort of Taba.
Barak set out the guidelines for the talks at todayâ€™s cabinet meeting, drawing a few red lines after erasing so many others since Camp David. Barak issued a statement setting out Israelâ€™s position on final status issues such as Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and borders. The statement said Israel rejects the right of return of some four million Palestinian refugees to their original homes in Israel; Israel would not sign any deal relinquishing sovereignty of the Temple Mount; Israel would annex enough territory to keep 80 percent of the Jewish residents of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza under Israeli rule. The Palestinians have rejected these positions in the past, and show no sign of softening their demands. "We hope the Israelis will change their positions, because we can't make concessions regarding the right of return," said Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath.
A top adviser to Ariel Sharon said today that the Likud leader will not be bound by any agreement emerging from the Taba talks. "Any paper Ehud Barak will sign with the Palestinians now, a week before the elections, in our view doesn't bind us," said Sharon's campaign adviser, Silvan Shalom. "He has no mandate to do what he is doing now. All these talks in Taba are simply regrettable." With Sharon leading by about 20 percentage points in the polls, Arab leaders have been voicing increasing concern. Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri said electing Sharon would be tantamount to a call for war.
Israeli security forces have arrested a 25-year-old Palestinian woman on suspicion of luring an Israeli teenager to a rendezvous where he was shot dead by Palestinian terrorists. The woman was arrested in a village north of Jerusalem by Israeli commandos and agents of the Shin Bet secret police. The two had developed a relationship over the Internet. Using the computer of the victim, 16-year-old Ophir Rahum of Ashkelon, police were able to track down the woman. It is believed that the she collaborated in the killing, carried out by two or three gunmen who shot the boy at least seven times.