Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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8 Adar II 5760 - March 15, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Barak Listens to PA and Gives in on Jerusalem Area Villages

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

For the first time, the Palestinians had a say in determining the Israeli pullback and reports say that the proposal reflects this: villages in the Yerushalayim area will be turned over the Palestinian Authority. Despite the fact that every written and signed agreement up until now says explicitly that Israel will unilaterally decide which land to turn over the PA control, Barak agreed to negotiate the upcoming 6.1% withdrawal with them.

The map of the West Bank withdrawal, which caused a rift with the Palestinians, is to be brought to the security cabinet for approval this week probably Wednesday -- a government official said yesterday.

According to the reports, the village of Anata, which is only about 30 meters from Jerusalem's Pisgat Ze'ev neighborhood, is to be transferred to full Palestinian control and to become Area A. Also the villages Abadiye and Beitunia are to become Area A. The latter is near Givat Zeev and is astride the road that leads to the Jewish settlements Dolev and Talmonim. Areas near Beit Lechem are also to become Area A, including the village of Zureif.

None of the villages are part of the official Jerusalem municipality, but their proximity to the municipal boundaries makes them extremely sensitive. It was not known how the more right wing members of the coalition would react to this latest news.

The Prime Minister's Office would neither confirm nor deny that these areas are part of the new withdrawal map.

A PA source said the two sides were discussing dividing the redeployment into at least two stages. He said Israel would start to withdraw a few days after the Muslim holiday, which ends next Sunday.

Government officials also said that Palestinian prisoners are to be released soon as a sign of goodwill. The officials said that although the exact number of prisoners and the date of their release is still under debate, a decision in principle has been made. The Palestinians are asking for the release of 150-200 inmates, a PA source said, while Israel is willing to release about 80.

Kalandiya, near Jerusalem's Atarot Airport, will remain under Israeli control, a well-informed Palestinian source added. Abu Dis will be the last village handed over to the PA, probably as part of the third redeployment, he said.

Although the PA did not deny the report, a senior PA official said its details are secret and known only to a small circle around Prime Minister Ehud Barak and Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat .

It is said that Israel wants the PA to establish its political capital in Abu Dis and to work out municipal autonomy for the Palestinians in the rest of east Jerusalem, while making special Vatican City-like arrangements in the Old City.

In a meeting Monday in Jerusalem between Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat and his counterpart Oded Eran, these and other interim issues -- such as the opening of the northern safe passage route and the return of Palestinian tax monies -- were all discussed.

Erekat said he felt the talks "had a serious air about them" and that he was confident results would be seen within a matter of days.

An official in the Prime Minister's Office said the prisoner and redeployment issues would be brought before the security cabinet for approval and to the cabinet next Sunday.

The negotiators and their teams are to begin 10 days of intensive negotiations in Washington next week on both the remaining interim issues and the framework for the permanent status agreement.

Following Mondays's meeting, Eran said that after these negotiations, a recess would be called so that each side could return home to brief its respective leaders.

Another official added that the sides would then reconvene for yet another 10-day round of talks.

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