Barak Proposes Land Deal; Arafat Rejects Offer
Nov. 30 -- Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered themost detailed description yet of his peace plan today, saying he would recognize an independent Palestinian state but would put off the explosive issue of control over Jerusalem.
In an animated speech to Israeli news editors, Barak spoke of a “phased agreement “ and said he was preparedto recognize a Palestinian state. He said theissue of sovereignty over Jerusalem and the return of Palestinian refugees should be put off for “one or two or three years.”
But as widely expected, the Palestinians rejected Barak’s proposal. An aide to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat today said that for a deal to be accepted, any accord had to cover all issues including that of Jerusalem.
“There must be a solution to all permanent status issues,foremost of which are Jerusalem and [Palestinian] refugees,” Nabil Abu Rdaineh said in Gaza today.
He added that a permanent peace deal necessitated “thereturn of all Palestinian rights and implementing United Nations resolutions.“
Barak’s announcement came as the Israeli prime minister prepares to face an early election with his popularity ratings at an all-time low after two months of violence between Palestinians and Israelis.
The beleaguered prime minister is widely regarded as needing some kind of peace deal to have any chance of leading his Labor party to victory in the polls.
A poll published by the daily Yedioth Ahronoth showed Barak would lose by a large margin to his right-wing predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, if general elections were held today.
The poll gave Netanyahu 51 percent of the vote, compared with 37 percent for Barak.Twelve percent of the 503 respondents were undecided.
Most political analysts agree that Barak’s political survival depends largely on whether he can forge a peace deal with the Palestinians prior to an early election that now seems certain following his dramatic about-turn on Tuesday, when he backed an opposition move to dissolve the parliament.