Israel Lists Demands for Summit

Sunday, October 15th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel will demand that Palestinians take steps to end shootings by their police and re-arrest Islamic militants they have freed in recent days, the government said Sunday ahead of a crucial Mideast summit.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, meanwhile, held pre-summit talks with political faction leaders including those from the Islamic militants groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

After more than two weeks of deadly fighting that has badly eroded trust on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian leaders grudgingly agreed to attend Monday's summit in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt in hopes of declaring a cease-fire. That goal is a far cry from optimistic assessments before the unrest that a final peace deal was within reach.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak sounded pessimistic Sunday, telling his Cabinet that he believed that the Palestinian leadership is not ready to make compromises that would bring a lasting peace.

``This is the harsh and cruel, but perhaps not permanent, reality,'' Barak said.

``In the end we will make peace with the Palestinians, but the current Palestinian leadership is now showing that it is finding it very difficult to make decisions related to an agreement.''

Israel's army chief, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, said that no matter what the results of the summit, ``the army has to prepare itself for long-term confrontations.''

Palestinian leaders also issued a bleak forecast.

``I really urge people not to have high expectations,'' said senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat.

The Israeli government said after its Sunday Cabinet meeting that its goal at the summit is an immediate end to violence and the establishment of mechanisms to prevent a new outbreak of hostility.

In a statement, the Cabinet also said Israel will demand the re-arrest of Islamic radicals freed by Palestinian police during the fighting, the taking of steps to halt shooting by Palestinian police and militiamen, a halt to calls for violence by the Palestinian media and the preservation of Jewish holy places in Palestinian-controlled territory.

Monday's gathering at the Egyptian resort was agreed upon after intense pressure from President Clinton and other world leaders.

``The good news is the parties have agreed to meet and the situation appears to be calmer,'' Clinton said Saturday. ``But the path ahead is difficult. After the terrible events of the past few days, the situation is still quite tense.''

Seventeen days of violence that has led to the deaths of nearly 100 people — most of them Palestinians — escalated dangerously on Thursday when a Palestinian mob beat two Israeli reserve soldiers to death, and Israel retaliated by firing rockets at Palestinian command centers.

Since then, low-level clashes and sporadic shootings have continued but the overall violence has abated.

In Palestinian refugee camps in Gaza, thousands of members of Arafat's Fatah faction urged Arafat to stay home. ``The Sharm el Sheik summit is an Israeli and American trick,'' one banner said.

In the volatile West Bank city of Hebron, dozens of Arab residents signed up for a new militia after thousands of mourners buried a man shot to death during clashes with Israeli troops a day before. The body was covered by a Palestinian flag, and borne by uniformed Palestinian police. Gunmen fired into the air chanting, ``revenge, revenge,'' and ``Down with the olive branch, long live the rifle!''

Israeli TV newscasts repeatedly ran the film of the exultant mob stomping and beating the two reserve soldiers in Ramallah on Thursday, and of a Gaza preacher delivering a Friday sermon that urged the faithful to ``kill the Jews.''

The summit will be attended by Clinton, Barak, Arafat, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, King Abdullah II of Jordan and a senior European Union representative.

After days of intense negotiations, the Palestinians dropped their demand for the prior establishment of an international commission of inquiry into the violence, settling instead for a promise that it would be discussed at the summit.

Israel has said that it would only trust the United States to lead a fair inquiry.

Arafat also wanted the Israelis to pull back from the edge of Palestinian-controlled areas, and to loosen a closure in those areas that has kept thousands of Palestinians from traveling to jobs or relatives. The Israelis have said they are prepared to meet those demands once the violence abates.

Israelis, meanwhile, softened the language on calls to Arafat to re-arrest dozens of Islamic militants freed in recent days.

The past two weeks have been a marked change from July, when negotiators at Camp David marveled at how far they had come. At that summit in the United States, the Palestinians were the first Arab negotiators willing to concede land Israel had captured in the 1967 Mideast war, and Barak violated two major taboos: discussing a return of Palestinian refugees, and sharing Jerusalem.

But the future of a Jerusalem shrine holy to both peoples ultimately broke up those talks and a Sept. 28 visit there by the leader of the hard-line Israeli opposition, Ariel Sharon, helped spark the current unrest.