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>Israel Faxx
>JN July 22, 1998, Vol. 6 No. 129

Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations Continue

By Al Pessin (VOA-Jerusalem)

Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to continue meeting in an Israeli town near Jerusalem, but Palestinian officials are offering a pessimistic assessment of how things are going so far.

The negotiators are not making formal statements on their talks, but Israeli news reports say Israel has offered two new ideas, and Palestinian officials apparently do not like them.

According to the news reports, Israel is offering to withdraw from 10 percent of the West Bank and to declare another 3 percent "green areas," in which there would be no building by either side. That would enable Israel to match the 13 percent US mediators have suggested as the core of the compromise plan, which the negotiators are now discussing.

In addition, Israel is reported to be willing to accept a process for amending the Palestinian Charter, to remove its anti-Israel clauses, which might be politically easier for the Palestinians than what Israel had been demanding.

Palestinian officials say they expect to hear more from Israel in additional meetings. But one Palestinian negotiator describes the Israeli ideas as not serious, and another says the Palestinians still want Israel to accept the US plan as written. The Palestinian leader, Yasir Arafat, says there has been no progress so far.

Fairly senior negotiators from the two sides are meeting in an town west of Jerusalem. The negotiators -- Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai and senior Palestinian official Mahmoud Abbas, who launched the process Sunday -- may meet Wednesday to review the situation.

Meanwhile, Israeli political maneuvering is continuing. Leading right-wing Cabinet member ariel sharon is reported to have phoned-in a threat to bring the government down all the way from China, where he is on an official visit. Sharon is the leader of a group in the ruling coalition which does not want to give up any more than 9 percent of the West Bank. But others in the coalition are willing to give more, and say they will bring the government down if there is no agreement within the next two weeks.

And there is a new, religious, element in the process. Friday begins an annual nine-day period of mourning in Judaism for the destruction of its two Holy Temples thousands of years ago. A senior rabbi, who leads a political party which might support a substantial West Bank withdrawal has called on the government not to negotiate during the mourning period, in keeping with Jewish tradition. The implication is that his party would oppose any accord reached during the nine days. If the government waits, it would extend the process into the Israeli parliament's summer recess -- meaning nothing could really happen until an agreement is possibly ratified in September -- which the Palestinians say is not acceptable.

Luxury Housing in Autonomous Areas

By IsraelWire

Forty villas and luxury apartments are taking shape as the village of Tell Al Safa, under the rule of the PLO Authority. The planners of the luxury development said the complex will be completed by year's end.

Zahed Khouri said Investors have spent $7 million for the development, which will include tennis courts, nurseries, a swimming pool, and green areas over an area of about 4.5 acres.

Khouri adds that the show of wealth is deliberate and is meant to send a message that rich Arabs, who have made money abroad, are prepared to invest in their land.

PA Will Demand Return of Abandoned West Jerusalem Properties

By IsraelWire

The PLO Authority, working out of the Orient House in eastern Jerusalem, is preparing a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court against Israel, asking to have properties returned that were abandoned by Arab owners in 1948.

In preparation for presenting the Supreme Court claim, Faisal Husseini, who holds the Jerusalem portfolio in the PA, traveled to Turkey, met with the Turkish foreign minister, and requested all Ottoman Empire documents pertaining to land-ownership filings.

The PA plans to base their claim on the fact that Israel lets Jews claim rights on properties that were purchased in East Jerusalem. In their fact gathering on Arab properties in West Jerusalem, the PA used the services of Israeli Arabs, who, armed with cameras and maps, were sent to many West Jerusalem neighborhoods, among them Talbia, Baka, and Ein Kerem.

Attorney Hadad Shkirat, who heads the Palestinian Association for Civil Rights, stated that his people have gathered information on tens of thousands of Arab houses and properties in West Jerusalem. "Ninety-five percent of the real estate in West Jerusalem belongs to Arabs, including the land used to build the Knesset and the Mall."

He also said the information would be used in discussions on the future of Jerusalem. Shkirat claimed that he personally opposes turning to the Israeli Supreme Court on the matter of Arab properties. He stated that the matter is political, not judicial, and is doomed from the start.

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