Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak had accepted the Clinton proposal “as a basis for discussion,” but canceled a planned trip to Egypt last night for talks with Palestinians when he learned they were unlikely to agree to the plan. Barak said the summit did not make sense unless the Palestinians agreed to the basic framework proposed by Clinton.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met alone with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak today in Cairo.
Clinton’s proposals have not been officially released but details of the plan have been widely leaked to the press. The Clinton proposal would give Palestinians control of all the Gaza Strip, 95 percent of the West Bank and Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem. These areas were captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
The proposals also would give Palestinians sovereignty over a Jerusalem shrine which Jews call Temple Mount and Arabs refer to as al-Haram al-Sharif, while the Jews would retain control of the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City.
In return the Palestinians would accept restrictions on refugees’ right to return. They would be allowed to settle in a new Palestinian state but not in their old homes in Israel, most of which are now occupied by Israelis.
President Clinton, who leaves office Jan. 20, said today that he still believes the two sides are now closer than ever to a peace deal. Such an agreement would secure Clinton an important place in diplomatic history before his term ends.
A peace deal is also considered essential for Barak, who faces an uphill battle to keep his seat. He faces right-wing leader Aerial Sharon in a special election set for Feb. 6.