Monday 24 May 1999

Arafat, Barak in accord on Jerusalem - Pact relies on concessions

By Matthew Kalman, USA TODAY

MAY 23, 1999

JERUSALEM - Israeli prime minister-elect Ehud Barak and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat have reached an outline of an historic agreement on the future of Jerusalem, senior Israeli and Palestinian officials told USA TODAY Sunday.

If a final text can be adopted by legislatures on both sides, it would remove one of the thorniest impediments to a final peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Arafat has declared his intention to establish a state with Jerusalem as its capital. Barak has vowed never to re-divide the city. The compromise means that each side could claim it has achieved its aim.

Under terms of the agreement, Arafat is prepared to give up his claim to large parts of Arab East Jerusalem in exchange for control of the 150,000 Palestinians living in the city, as well as several religious sites, the officials said.

Israel's new Labor government also would not oppose Arafat's intention to declare a Palestinian state by the end of this year with its capital in Abu Dis, a village two miles east of the Old City, the officials said. The area was handed over to the Palestinians in 1996.

Abu Dis lies just outside the municipal boundary of Jerusalem as defined by Israel since it captured the eastern half of the city from Jordan in the 1967 Six-Day War.

But the Palestinians can also claim that Abu Dis is within the city of Jerusalem because it falls within administrative boundaries recognized by the Ottoman Empire from 1516 to 1917. Israel would agree not to challenge that interpretation.

But the deal is far from done. Barak still needs to form a coalition government that would present the plan to a new Israeli parliament, or Knesset. Only then, will the Knesset begin debating the plan.

Talks will begin Monday on forming a form a coalition from among the record 15 political parties who won seats in the Knesset.

The question of Jerusalem, with its holy sites sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims, has always been the most problematic issue in any potential peace agreement. Both the Palestinians and Israelis have vowed to have Jerusalem as their capital.

Senior Palestinian officials said the outline of the agreement means that they are closer than ever to fulfilling Arafat's goal to pray at the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

The new Palestinian parliament building under construction now in Abu Dis includes an office for Arafat with a view to the Old City and the al Aqsa mosque.

Senior Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed that the two sides had agreed in principle that no land in East Jerusalem would be handed over to the Palestinians.

"Jerusalem shall remain the eternal and undivided capital of Israel," Barak said. "On this question there is no room for doubt, nor any political haggling. Jerusalem was, is, and will remain the united capital of our nation."

The White House Sunday refused comment on the report.

Under the plan, Israeli and Palestinian officials said that the Palestinian flag will be allowed to fly over several of Jerusalem's holy sites, which will effectively have the same legal status as foreign embassies.

It would also establish a safe passage corridor from Abu Dis through East Jerusalem so that Palestinians from the West Bank of the Jordan River can travel to the Old City of Jerusalem without having to pass through Israeli security checkpoints.

Palestinian and Labor party leaders worked out the agreement in secret meetings held in European capitals.

Monday 17 May 1999

In marked shift, Hamas leader talks of a cease-fire

May 17, 1999

By Matthew Kalman


In an interview, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of the terrorist Islamic resistance movement Hamas, called last week for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and for the first time suggested he might recognize Israel's right to exist. But he threatened to continue terrorist activity if there's no movement.

In a major departure from all previous statements of Hamas policy, Yassin said Thursday that the conflict could be ended if Israel withdrew from Gaza and the West Bank of the Jordan River. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Six-Day War. Yassin offered an immediate end to Hamas attacks on Israeli targets following such a withdrawal and said relations with Israel should be left to future generations to decide.

"We have to be realistic," he said. "We are talking about a homeland that was stolen a long time ago in 1948 and again in 1967.

"My generation today is telling the Israelis let´s solve this problem now on the basis of the 1967 borders. Let's end this conflict by declaring a temporary cease-fire. Let's leave the bigger issue for future generations to decide."

Until now, Yassin has vowed to continue the armed struggle until a Palestinian state was established in all of Palestine, effectively wiping the Jewish state off the map. Only last week, he told the Al-Ahram weekly in Cairo, Egypt, that the notion of Israel living in peace next to an independent Palestine was "a false idea."

Deadly Arab enemy offers hope of peace

May 17, 1999

Matthew Kalman

AS Israelis prepare to vote today in an election that may decide the fate of the Middle East peace process, a sworn enemy of the Jewish state has made an overture toward peace.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, spiritual leader of the terrorist Islamic resistance movement Hamas, has called for an end to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and for the first time suggested he might recognise Israel's right to exist. But he threatened to continue terrorist activity if there is no movement.

In a radical departure from all previous statements of Hamas policy, Yassin said the conflict could end if Israel withdrew from the West Bank and Gaza. Israel captured both areas in the 1967 Six- Day War. In …

Monday 10 May 1999


Najwan won't make a stand

May 10, 1999

NAJWAN GRAYEB, Tottenham's £1million new signing, has been the subject of considerable controversy in Israel, Matthew Kalman reports from Jerusalem.

A Muslim arab from Nazareth, Grayeb, who joined Tottenham from Hapoel Haifa last week, is one of the few non-Jews to have represented Israel.

And if that was not enough to make him controversial, defender Grayeb admitted last month to a reporter that he did not know the words to the Israeli national anthem, that Israeli Independence Day was just for Jews and that he did not stand and observe the two minutes' silence on Israel's Memorial Day (on which the nation commemorates its fallen soldiers) unless he was in …