Carping begins before pact is signed Netanyahu's allies vow to kill it

Palestinians burn American flags

October 24, 1998|By Ann LoLordo | Ann LoLordo,SUN FOREIGN STAFF

JERUSALEM -- The interim peace deal hadn't been signed and the Israeli and Palestinian leaders had not yet departed from the Maryland summit before the carping began back home.

No Israeli or Palestinian leader offered Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat an unequivocal compliment on negotiating an agreement that breaks a 19-month stalemate in the peace process, gives Palestinians additional West Bank land and Israelis more security guarantees.

There were no thumbs up and only a few encouraging words as details of the agreement reached Israel late yesterday.

Instead, opponents within Netanyahu's hard-line Cabinet pressed ahead with their public campaign to kill the agreement, which would implement another phase of the original 1993 Oslo peace accords.

Netanyahu must win approval of his Cabinet and a majority of the Knesset, Israel's parliament, to implement the deal -- the fourth interim agreement in five years.

"The way things look now, there are going to be problems in the Cabinet because many of my colleagues, including myself, won't live with an agreement that is good for the signing ceremony but not good for our security in Israel," said Yuli Edelstein, a Cabinet minister who lives in the occupied territories.

Yossi Sarid, a left-wing member of the Israeli parliament who supports the Oslo accords, was less than enthusiastic. "Better to have an agreement full of holes than one big black hole with no agreement," Sarid told Israel Radio.

Husam Khader, a Palestinian legislator, said the security aspect of the agreement dampened Palestinian support. "One day we will discover we are policemen in the Israeli army," said the member of the Palestinian Legislative Council.

Members of the right wing in Israel and the militant Islamic group Hamas vowed to take their own measures to kill the deal.

Aharon Domba, the leader of the nationalist, religious settler movement, initially described the redeployment agreement as "treachery against the idea and the people who sent Netanyahu to protect the land of Israel."

His harsh comments were evocative of the rhetoric that preceded the assassination in 1995 of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Arafat for signing the Oslo agreement.

Within hours, Domba retracted his statement and replaced it RTC with this: "It is an agreement of surrender. It cannot be worse. Tens of settlements will be threatened. We will use all democratic means to foil it."

He vowed to press for more settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

In Gaza, Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader and founder of Hamas, said the agreement would have no impact on the group's military wing, whose bus bombings, suicide attacks and terrorist assaults have killed scores of Israelis and some Palestinians.

"Our people are paying more than they are getting from this agreement," Yassin said in an interview with the Associated Press in Gaza.

In Rafah, a crowd of Palestinians organized by Islamic Jihad chanted, "We will never accept the Washington solutions." Some burned burned Israeli and American flags.

Throughout the day and evening, reaction filled the airwaves in Israel. But the agreement everybody seemed to hate was upstaged by the report that the Israelis were refusing to sign the accord without the release of Jonathan Pollard, an American serving a life sentence for spying for Israel.

Pollard was sentenced to life without parole in March 1987 for providing Israel with satellite information and other top secrets.

The Pollard hitch provoked its own reaction. The Netanyahu government has been lobbying for Pollard's release since it took office in June 1996.

As attempts were made late yesterday to salvage the peace agreement, Netanyahu Cabinet secretary Danny Naveh reiterated the Israeli government's support for Pollard's release.

"The Cabinet of Israel is committed to do everything to free Pollard," he told Israel Radio in an interview from the Wye Plantation in Maryland.

Pub Date: 10/24/98

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