Israel's Cabinet again failed to reach agreement on the scope of a West Bank troop withdrawal. Far-right cabinet ministers threatened to topple the Government if Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed to a 13 per cent pullback. (AP)
Jewish settlers set fire to two Palestinian cars near the Israeli settlement of Kiryat Arba outside Hebron. (AFP)
In the Jabal Mukabber neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, an Israeli police bulldozer razed a 240 square meter (2,600 sq. foot) house, which had been home to a Palestinian family of nine. A police spokesman said the house had recently been built without a permit on land destined to become a nature reserve. At the same time the police demolished what they described as a 24 sq. meter (260 sq. foot) Palestinian "structure" at At-Tur, also in East Jerusalem. A small Palestinian tile factory in Ar-Ram was also demolished. (AFP, DPA)
The United States asked Arab States to give it a week to announce the outcome of US peace proposals before taking a decision on holding an Arab summit to discuss the Middle east peace process. The request was presented in Amman by US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering to Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah ibn Abdel Aziz, both of whom were visiting Jordan. (AFP)
Israeli troops shot and wounded a 13-year old Palestinian boy near the settlement of Ben Etzion in Gush Katif block in the southern Gaza Strip. The Israeli police said the man had been shot as he walked near the fence surrounding the settlement. (AFP, AP, Reuters)
Israel’s Defence Minister Yitzhak Mordechai cautioned that a government failure to decide on the scope of a further West Bank withdrawal could trigger violence. “The lack of decisions could lead to confrontation and violence and they should be anticipated...,” he told the Knesset. (Reuters)
Foreign Ministers from 15 EU countries joined by representatives from Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey and the Palestinian Authority met in Palermo, Italy, for a two-day Euro-Med conference to get the economic cooperation process back on track after last year's derailment by developments in the Middle East peace process. The meeting has no formal agenda and will not issue a final communiqué. The EU Presidency is only expected to “draw conclusions” in a closing statement. The meeting is co-chaired by Italy and the United Kingdom, the EU Presidency. The organizers hope it will bring the conference back to its original idea of creating a European-Mediterranean free trade and security zone by 2010. (AP, Reuters)
The US will decide within “days rather than weeks” if its mediation effort between Israel and the Palestinians can work, the US ambassador to Israel Edward Walker stated in Tel Aviv. “What's going to happen is that there will be a decision made on whether there's going to be an agreement or not, whether our efforts are going to bear fruit or not,” he said. Ambassador Walker also said that while the US had not given Israel a deadline to accept the US proposal for a troop withdrawal from 13 per cent of the West Bank, “there is a very short time frame.” (AFP, AP, DPA)
Israel and Jordan have agreed in principle to build a cross-border cargo and passenger railway that would link the port city of Haifa to an industrial park in Irbid in Jordan. The two countries are now seeking investors for the project, which will cost about US$200 million. Israel and Jordan are also conducting a feasibility study for a railway that would run from Aqaba in Jordan to the Israeli port of Ashdod, via Eilat in southern Israel and the Dead Sea. That line would cost about US$400 million to build. (AFP, Reuters)
The Euro-Mediterranean conference concluded its work in Palermo, Italy. EU and Mediterranean experts now will be working to prepare a Euro-Mediterranean stability and security pact with a view to presenting it at the next conference, in April 1999 in Stuttgart, Germany. Under the so-called Barcelona Process, begun in 1995, the EU holds regular high-level meetings with 12 Mediterranean partners. (AFP, AP, DPA)
Ha’aretz published virtually the entire text of the draft US initiative for an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. The following is the text of the US proposal as reported by the news wires:
Over a period of 12 weeks divided into three stages, Palestinian and Israeli obligations and commitments will be implemented in accordance with a phased paralleled approach, as follows:
I. First Stage: Week One to the end of Week Five
1. Permanent status negotiations will be immediately resumed.
2. The trilateral security committee (American-Palestinian-Israeli) will be reactivated to deal with all security matters. In the first meetings, there will be a report by Palestinian Authority security officials on the results of interrogations of those in custody. It will convene every two weeks and will report directly to Chairman Yasser Arafat and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
B. Within the first two weeks
3. In the first two weeks, the Israeli side will deploy from 2 per cent C (all Israeli-held territory) to B (territory under Israeli security control but Palestinian civil control), and 7.1 per cent B to A (full Palestinian control).
4. Palestinian-Israeli security coordination and cooperation will be reviewed at all levels and without conditions.
5. The Executive Committee of the PLO will endorse Arafat's letter to President Clinton concerning the Palestinian Charter.
6. Arafat will issue an executive decree against incitement.
7. An Israeli-Palestinian committee will be established to deal with incitement. The Americans may also participate. The committee will be composed of an elected legislator from each side, and a security man, a lawyer and a journalist from each side.
8. An American-Palestinian security committee will be established to deal with specific security matters, such as to follow the files of individuals who have committed terrorist activities. Have they been arrested? Did they appear in courts? Were they sentenced? Are they still in jails?
The apprehension of individuals suspected of acts of violence and terror - in accordance with the list - will be developed jointly for investigation and prosecution.
9. The trilateral security committee will introduce monitoring and implementation mechanisms to fight terror at the regional level. In the first meetings, the Palestinian Authority will report on the steps taken to outlaw violent and militant groups.
II. Second Stage: Week 6 to the end of Week 11
1. The Israeli side will redeploy from 5 per cent C to B.
2. Arafat will ratify the law on arms possession, which will be followed by the establishment of a systematic program for collection and disposal of illegal weapons.
3. The trilateral security committee will deal with the issue of arms smuggling.
4. The Palestinian side will hand the Israeli side a list of the names of the Palestinian police force, in conformity with the Interim Agreement.
5. The steering committee will deal with the issue of transfer of suspects. After receiving all relevant materials, the PA will respond within four weeks, in accordance with the Interim Agreement.
III. Third Stage: Week 12
1. The Israeli side will redeploy from the 5 per cent C to B, 1 per cent C to A, and 7.1 per cent B to A.
IV. Other elements
1. A joint Palestinian-Israeli committee will be established for the third phase of the further redeployments. It will report to the American side once a week. The American side will stand by the Warren Christopher letter of January 17, 1997.
2. The outstanding Interim issues - release of prisoners, Gaza airport, industrial zone, will be implemented within 12 weeks. Serious efforts will be made to implement the other issues.
Settler leaders have intensified their campaign against Israeli withdrawal from parts of the West Bank. Dozens of members of the Likud Central Committee were flown across the West Bank in planes chartered by settlers trying to persuade them to oppose any pullback as a danger to Israel's security. Maps in hand, they were given explanations by settler guides, said settler spokesman Aharon Domb. He said the aim was to generate support for holding a Likud convention that would vote on a withdrawal. Most Central Committee members are staunch supporters of Prime Minister Netanyahu and it was not clear whether they would go against him on a major policy decision. Last week, settlers began mailing one million brochures containing West Bank maps to Israeli homes in hopes of turning Israeli public opinion against a troop pullback. (AP)
Saeb Erakat, a chief Palestinian negotiator, categorically rejected Israeli demands to minimize or scrap the second of two promised Israeli withdrawals from the West Bank. (AFP)
According to the Jerusalem-based Palestinian news service Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (JMCC), the PA called on the Palestinian people to continue their struggle for peace, self-determination and the return of their homeland. The call was issued in Gaza by the PA in a message marking the 31st anniversary of the 1967 war. (XINHUA)
Israeli peace activists arrived in Cairo to meet their Egyptian counterparts in talks on the deadlocked Arab-Israeli peace process and ways of reviving it. "We begin meeting tomorrow to discuss a joint stand vis-à-vis the policies of the current Israeli Government and the principles for a just and lasting peace," said Salah Bassiouni, head of the Cairo Peace Society. He said the meetings would bring together a delegation of Israel's Peace Now movement and members of his organisation, which was founded on 22 April 1998 and became the first Arab non-government movement for peace with Israel. (AFP)
The PA condemned the start of an Israeli archaeological excavation on a site in East Jerusalem where ultra-Orthodox Jewish group Ateret Cohanim plans to build a new settlement. (Reuters)
A panel in Israel's Ministry of Education recommended imposing the Israeli curriculum on 33 Palestinian public primary and secondary schools in East Jerusalem. (AFP)
Members of Israel’s Peace Now movement and representatives of the newly formed Egyptian Peace Society issued a joint statement. “We deeply believe that ... both Jews and Arabs throughout the region urgently desire peace,” the statement said. “We are also convinced that a comprehensive peace is not only desirable but also attainable.” Among the seven points offered as the solution, one proposed that Jerusalem remain a united city in which Palestinians and Israelis can co-exist under coordinated municipalities and have their own capitals. The statement suggested that some Israeli settlements be allowed to remain within the boundaries of the agreed Palestinian State but others must be evacuated with appropriate compensation from the Israeli Government. The proposal also said that the Palestinian State should be allowed to absorb the 1948 refugees and displaced Palestinians from the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. The refugees should also receive compensation from the international community. (AP, DPA, Reuters)
Fifteen Jewish settlers from the Elad group took over three buildings in East Jerusalem, stringing barbed wire and setting off stone-throwing clashes with Palestinian neighbours. At least two people were injured in today's clashes, including the top PLO official in Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini. He was hit in the head with a stone and slightly hurt before police and soldiers broke up the scuffle. (AP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)
Canada announced a $580,000 programme to promote peace efforts between Israel and the Palestinians. The initiative was presented by Canada's Minister for International Cooperation, Diane Marleau, during a visit to the Shimon Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv. The donations will go to four projects including the creation of a joint Israeli-Palestinian information technology-training centre in cooperation with the Shimon Peres Center for Peace. Another project will support programmes using traditional Arab community conflict-resolution methods to resolve disputes in the Palestinian territories and address women's issues. The two other projects to be funded involve bringing Israeli and Palestinian civil groups together and holding conferences of regional opinion makers to discuss broader security and arms control issues. (AFP)
In accordance with GA resolution ES-10/5 of 17 March 1998, Israeli, Palestinian and Swiss representatives began a meeting of experts in Geneva aimed at convening a conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention. The meeting is chaired by the ICRC. (AFP)
The Planning and Construction Commission of Israel’s Ministry of the Interior authorized a project submitted by a Jewish settlers’ group to build 58 housing units for a religious seminary in East Jerusalem. The PA immediately condemned the decision and called for "confrontation" with the settlers. (AFP, Reuters)
According to the results of a poll aired on Israel’s public TV, 48 per cent of those asked favoured an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, 29 per cent were opposed, and the rest had no opinion. Asked if they favoured dismantling Jewish settlements in the West Bank as part of the pullback, 45 per cent declared themselves in favour, 39 per cent were opposed, and the rest had no opinion. A majority of those asked, 53 per cent, also said Israel should allow the creation of an independent Palestinian State following permanent status negotiations on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Another 31 per cent were against creating an independent Palestinian State, while the rest had no opinion. (AFP)
Bulldozers guarded by Israeli soldiers cleared some 20 hectares (50 acres) of land, near the village of Zief south of Hebron, claimed by the Hebron families of Natshe and Jabari. Also, in the area of El-Uja north of Jericho, bulldozers escorted by dozens of Israeli soldiers destroyed five Bedouin tents and animal pens of the El-Amarin family. Two other tents and several animal pens were demolished in nearby Fasayil and several feeding troughs were confiscated. (AFP)
Peace activists of the International Committee on the Middle East, a Christian movement made up of activists from Europe, North America, Australia and Africa, clashed with police while demonstrating in East Jerusalem against settlement activities by radical settlers. The demonstration took place in the village of Silwan where settlers from the Elad group moved into four Palestinian houses, on 8 June. The Israeli police violently dispersed the demonstration, detaining six of them. (AFP, DPA, Reuters)
EU Middle East envoy Miguel Moratinos met with top Palestinian negotiators and security officials in an effort to further stalled peace negotiations with Israel. The officials met at the office of chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat in the West Bank town of Jericho. The talks were attended by the head of the preventive security service in the West Bank, Jibril Rajub, his Gaza Strip counterpart, Mohammed Dahlan, and the head of Palestinian intelligence in the West Bank, Tariq Tirawi. (AFP)
Palestinian protesters and Israeli police clashed during the funeral of a Palestinian man stabbed to death a day earlier by his Jewish co-worker in a West Bank settlement. The confrontation began when Palestinian youths in the funeral march began throwing rocks at Israeli vehicles near East Jerusalem's Old City. The police responded by firing tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at the protesters but no injuries or arrests were reported. (AFP)
Israeli troops bulldozed a Palestinian house belonging to a 10-member family for the third time in the last ten years. Soldiers scuffled with members of Yussef al-Atrash’s family and their neighbours. Israeli peace activists had helped rebuild the house in the West Bank town of Hebron in March 1998 after it was razed on grounds that it was built without a permit. Back in 1988, the al-Atrash family house was torn down by the Israeli authorities for the same reason. (AP, AFP)
Israel's army authorized the creation of civil defence militias inside Jewish settlements in the West Bank to help ensure the security of the enclaves, Israel Radio reported. The units will be made up of volunteers and work alongside Israeli police and other security forces. The first units are to be created in coming weeks in the largest settlements of Maale Adumim and Givat Zeev near Jerusalem and Ariel near Nablus. Smaller settlements will get their own militia later, the radio said. (AFP)
The EU expressed "concern" at the recent activities of Jewish settler groups aimed at expanding their presence in East Jerusalem. A statement issued by Britain, which holds the current EU Presidency, said: "We urge the Israeli Government to take measures to prevent such activities, which threaten to damage the peace process. The European Union believes a halt to unilateral activity of this sort is essential to rebuild trust and enable wider resumption of negotiations." (AFP)
PA President Arafat invited Pope John Paul II to visit Bethlehem in the year 2000 and said the Pontiff had reacted positively. During a brief private audience in Vatican City, the Pope told Chairman Arafat he would pray for the Palestinian “nation” and that he believed good will by both Israelis and Palestinians was needed to revive the stalled Middle East peace process. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)
An Israeli human rights group B’Tselem denounced Israel's tough restrictions on Palestinians who want to travel between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. "The denial of passage between the West Bank and Gaza Strip imposes hardships on virtually the entire Palestinian population," B’Tselem said in a statement accompanying a report on the restrictions. The group published official Israeli military documents showing that 600 travel permits to move between the territories are issued each week, 300 for the West Bank and 300 for the Gaza Strip, for a combined population of 2.5 million people. Other restrictions are that a man must be older than 45 and a woman older than 35 to obtain travel permit, except for children up to the age of 14. (AFP)
Italian President Oscar Luigi Scalfaro called on Israel to unblock the Middle East peace process, after talks with PA President Arafat in Rome. "Italy has always been Israel's friend and we do not plan to cast a cloud over this friendship but for the benefit of truth we must also say that there has been a wilful slowdown of the peace process," he said. (AFP)
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called on Israel to accept US proposals aimed at breaking the deadlock in its negotiations with the Palestinians. "The American peace proposals have been reluctantly accepted by the Palestinians and I would like to see them accepted by Israel," Mr. Downer told reporters at a joint news conference in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa. (AFP)
PA President Arafat accepted in Florence the Pegasus Peace Prize of the Toscana region, vowing to continue efforts to prevent bloodshed in the Middle East. The prize, introduced in 1993, has in the past been awarded to former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, the Robert Kennedy Foundation and Jacques Delors. The award was two years ago posthumously granted to assassinated Prime Minister Rabin. (DPA)
Prime Minister Netanyahu, Internal Security Minister Avigdor Kahalani and Education Minister Yitzhak Levy decided to limit the influence of the Palestinian Authority in East Jerusalem schools and allocate additional funds to the Education Ministry to allow greater inspection of the schools beginning in the fall. East Jerusalem schools have studied under the Jordanian curriculum even since 1967. Since the establishment of the PA in 1994, the East Jerusalem schools have begun adopting the curriculum taught in the self-rule areas of the West Bank. (AFP)
US Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs, Stuart Eizenstadt, urged Israel, to continue to permit more Palestinian workers into the country to aid the Palestinian economy. Mr. Eizenstadt told Prime Minister Netanyahu that the increased number of work permits Israel had granted to Palestinians in recent months had helped the Palestinian economy. (AFP, XINHUA)
The PA accused Israel of keeping hold of US$300 million in customs duties and threatening the Palestinian economy by hampering movement of people and goods. PA Minister of Finance Mohammed Nashashibi said the amount represented customs duties on imported cars bought by residents of the Palestinian territories, WAFA reported on. (AFP)
Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. (AFP, Reuters)
David Bar-Illan, Prime Minister Netanyahu's communications adviser, said the Prime Minister was seeking a “package deal” with the US on the two further West bank withdrawals, known in the jargon of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process as the second and third further redeployments. “Obviously we can't implement the second redeployment without knowing what the third is going to bring about,” he said. (Reuters)
The US called Israel's demolition of Palestinian houses in East Jerusalem a "provocative" activity. “At the time when we are trying to bring the parties together, these house demolitions send the wrong signal. The Secretary has called repeatedly for a time-out on provocative activities, including house demolitions. At this delicate moment in the talks where we are still hopeful that we can re-establish the peace process that has been unable to succeed in the recent year, we renew our call on both sides to refrain from provocative acts which only make the task of reaching agreement more difficult,” State Department spokesman James Rubin told reporters at a daily press briefing. (AFP, The Jerusalem Post, XINHUA)
Some 100 Israeli soldiers destroyed two Palestinian apartment buildings in the Beit Hanina neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. Palestinian witnesses said the demolition began when the soldiers threw the two Palestinian families and their furniture out of the homes in the early morning hours. (AFP)
The Council of the European Union expressed “very grave concern” at the lack of progress towards peace in the Middle East. “The current opportunity for progress on the Palestinian track must not be lost,” the Council said in a draft final communiqué on the last day of a two-day summit in Cardiff, Wales. In the draft, the EU called on Israel “to recognise the right of the Palestinians to exercise self-determination, without excluding the option of a State” and appealed to Palestinians to reaffirm their commitment to Israel's right to live within safe borders. The text was to be adopted later in the day. (DPA, Reuters)
US Secretary of State Albright has given Prime Minister Netanyahu until 24 June to make a final decision on US proposals for a West Bank pullout, Maariv reported. (AFP)
Israeli authorities demolished three Palestinian houses near Ramallah, which they said were built without permits. (Reuters)
Three Jewish settlers, two of them teenagers, were arrested for the drive-by beating death of a Palestinian farmer, Abdel Jajid Abu Turki, 45, and a father of 12, near the Beit Hagai settlement, south of Hebron. (AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters, XINHUA)
According to the results of the opinion poll published by Yediot Aharonot, 59 per cent of the Israelis surveyed said they were in favour of a 13 per cent Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank. The poll also showed that 74 per cent of the surveyed think that it is necessary to continue the peace talks and implement the signed peace agreements. But more than half of the surveyed do not think that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants to carry out the agreements. The poll sample consisted of 505 respondents. The margin of error was 4.5 per cent. (DPA, XINHUA)
Israel rejected the reference in the Presidency Conclusions of the EU Council made in Cardiff, Wales, on 16 June, regarding the possible creation of a Palestinian State as a counter-productive interference in the negotiations about the final autonomy status, the Israeli foreign ministry said. (DPA)
Israeli troops destroyed six Palestinian houses in two villages southeast of Bethlehem. Minor clashes broke out between Palestinian residents and the soldiers shielding bulldozers that destroyed five houses in the village of Ar-Rashaida, but no injuries were reported. Another house was demolished in the village of Tekoa. (AFP)
Prime Minister Netanyahu said he was looking into ways of holding a referendum on a West Bank troop withdrawal. Before a referendum could be held, however, a law enabling it to take place would have to be passed by the Knesset. Mr. Netanyahu also demanded that the PLO cease efforts to upgrade its observer status in the United Nations, saying such a move violated the Israeli-Palestinian peace agreements and would be a “fatal blow” to peacemaking. Israel might respond by annexing parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he said. (AP, AFP, DPA, Reuters)
Prime Minister Netanyahu announced the Jerusalem’s development plan through 2020, submitted to him by the Special Committee on Jerusalem. He pledged that construction would begin soon on 6,500 homes for Jews in East Jerusalem. As part of the plan, Jerusalem's municipal area would be expanded westward to incorporate wealthier suburbs and improve the city's tax base. An eastern ring road would be built to connect settlements to the city. The plan also calls for building at least 140,000 homes over the next two decades. Openly acknowledging a quota system for the first time, Israeli government planners said that an overriding concern was to keep the Palestinian population of the city to no more than 30 per cent. According to the plan, 174,400 Palestinians and 417,000 Jews lived in the city at the end of 1995. The Palestinians made up 29.5 per cent of the population, up from 25.8 per cent in 1967. The plan said: “It will be necessary to aim for a target in which 70 per cent of the population will be Jews and 30 per cent will be Arabs in 2020.” (AP, DPA, Reuters)
The EU accorded humanitarian aid worth 1.5 million ECU (US$1.65 million) for the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Jordan. It is giving 1 million ECU (US$1.1 million) to the West Bank and Gaza for medical programmes already underway, including a vaccination campaign and training of local staff, a statement by the EU Commission said. The aid will be channelled through humanitarian organizations over the next four to six months. (AP)
The PA criticized Israel's plan for Jerusalem expansion and called on the international community to pressure Israel to halt such a unilateral plan. PA Cabinet Secretary Ahmed Abdel-Rahman said in Gaza City that the Jerusalem expansion plan was aiming at causing a demographic change in the city. (XINHUA)
Uri Elitzur, a former settler official who recently became Prime Minister Netanyahu's bureau chief, called on his former colleagues at the Yesha Council of Jewish Settlements to recognize the inevitability of Israel’s withdrawal from parts of the West Bank and contribute to its final demarcations in order to minimise the damage, Ha'aretz reported. According to the newspaper, Mr. Elitzur called on the Yesha members to study maps of the pullback, give feedback and avert any disastrous decisions. He said it was still possible to influence the boundaries of Areas A, B and C. (DPA)
In a mock referendum involving 50,000 newspaper readers, two-thirds supported a withdrawal from 13 per cent of the West Bank, as proposed by the US, Israel’s Maariv reported. (AP)
At the daily press briefing, US State Department spokesman James Rubin commented on the Israeli Government’s plans for the expansion of Jerusalem. "We believe it is extremely hard to understand why Israel would even consider taking such a provocative step at this sensitive time in the negotiations,” Rubin told reporters. He said the future of Jerusalem was “an extremely sensitive and emotional issue” and Washington wanted no action to be taken that would preempt “final status” talks between Palestinians and Israelis. (AFP, FNS, Reuters, XINHUA)
Settlers from El-Ad movement occupied another house in Silwan, an East Jerusalem neighbourhood. (AFP, DPA)
Israel's Cabinet unanimously approved a plan that would extend Jerusalem municipal authority over nearby Jewish settlements in the West Bank. (AP, AFP, CNN)
US Secretary of State Albright told NBC television she had talked with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the Jerusalem expansion plans and told him that Washington viewed it as “something that was not helpful to the peace process.” “Peace talks are underway “on a variety of levels,” Mrs. Albright said, and “unilateral acts of any kind at this point do not help” rekindle the peace process, now on hold for more than a year. (AFP)
An Israeli ministerial team recommended the holding of a non-binding “advisory” referendum on whether Israel should withdraw from some 13 per cent of the occupied West Bank, Israel Radio reported. The radio said Minister of Justice Tzahi Hanegbi and Minister of Communications Limor Livnat, who are in charge of examining the referendum idea, suggest that the results of the poll do not bind the Government. Instead, they would only be used as a “weighty recommendation” to the Israeli authorities. Following a meeting, the ministers recommended the Government first vote on the US compromise proposal for a West Bank withdrawal, which would then be brought to a referendum and finally to a vote in the Knesset. (AFP, AP, Reuters)
PA President Arafat urged the US Administration to go public with its plan for an Israeli troop withdrawal in the West Bank. The appeal was contained in a letter by Chairman Arafat to the US Secretary of State Albright, said Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. According to Mr. Erakat, Chairman Arafat reminded Mrs. Albright that in a phone call last month, she had assured him that her negotiations with Prime Minister Netanyahu on a withdrawal would be completed within two weeks. (AP)
Prime Minister Netanyahu warned the Palestinians that if they went ahead with plans to bring up the Jerusalem plan for debate in the Security Council, it would have serious repercussions for Middle East peacemaking. “This will cause serious harm to the peace process,” he said. “We will not accept this.” He added that “those who want make progress in the peace process should try to stop this.” (AP)
The Arab League will hold an emergency meeting, on 25 June, to discuss Israel's decision to expand the boundaries of Jerusalem. (Reuters)
A former Holy See envoy to Israel criticised the Israeli Government over its plans to expand the city. "Israel continues to say it wants peace while taking steps which go clearly against peace and keep alive the conflict," Archbishop Andrea Cordero Lanza di Montezemolo said in Vatican City at the launch of a book on the future of Jerusalem by Catholic specialists Nicola Bux and Franco Cardini. He also accused Israel of not respecting accords signed with the Vatican, especially over access to holy sites for pilgrims. (AFP)
The Saudi, Egyptian and Syrian Foreign Ministers met in Riyadh on the deadlocked Middle East peace process. (AFP)
Egypt will recognize an independent Palestinian State once PA President Arafat declares it next year, Foreign Minister Amre Moussa was quoted as saying. “Under no circumstances should the Palestinians be deprived of their legitimate right to declare their State,” Mr. Moussa said in an interview with Al-Mussawar. “We are in the forefront of those who support a Palestinian State ... and President Mubarak himself will declare our position at that time,” he said. (AP)
Israel Army radio said the referendum on the Israeli further withdrawal from the West Bank could take place in mid-September, before the Jewish new year, which falls on 20 September. (AFP)
Bulldozers escorted by Israeli soldiers destroyed two Palestinian homes in the West Bank north-west of Jerusalem. The destruction crew flattened two homes in Kataneh village belonging to the Taha and Taher families. (AFP)
Israel has allocated 88 million shekels(about US$24 million) for 400 new housing units in the occupied territories, the Ma'ariv daily reported. The allocation was approved by the Knesset. Meanwhile, the settlement of Kiryat Arba near Hebron is to be expanded by 140 new apartments, the paper said. (DPA)
Prime Minister Netanyahu is backtracking on a plan for a referendum amid growing opposition from several ministers and key party leaders within his coalition. He said: “Only if and when we have reached an accord (on a withdrawal), will the question of a referendum be put forward by the Government.” (AFP)
Indonesia condemned Israel’s decision to create a “Greater Jerusalem,” and called on the international community to take appropriate action. South Africa, likewise, condemned the Israeli decision. (AFP)
Palestinian and Israeli negotiators plan to meet on 1-5 July in Rhodes, Greece, to advance peace procedures in the Middle East. The meeting will be attended by Palestinian negotiator Mr. Faisal Husseini, Israel’s Labour and Culture ministers, European Envoy Miguel Angel Moratinos as well as representatives from the EU, US and European Commission. (Al-Quds, XINHUA)
The UN Security Council will hold a debate on 30 June on Israel’s recent decision regarding Jerusalem. (AFP)
Prime Minister Netanyahu said he no longer sought US commitment that further withdrawal from the West Bank would be only symbolic in scope, backtracking on his earlier position that if Israel withdrew from 13 per cent of the West Bank, further redeployment would include only two percent of the territory. Mr. Netanyahu expected that negotiations with the Palestinians over the second redeployment would be concluded by July 29, when the Knesset recessed for the summer. He also insisted that the PA cut the number of police operating in the self-rule areas. (AFP, Reuters, XINHUA)
PA officials said, on 28 June, that they had asked Israel to allow head o the Political Department of the PLO Farouk Kaddoumi to move to Gaza from Tunis. Israel has already agreed to admit into Gaza Mahmoud Ghnaim, another PLO official still in exile. Initial response to the request for Mr. Kaddoumi has been negative. (Reuters)
At a fundraising event for Jewish settlements, Prime Minister Netanyahu vowed to keep building in East Jerusalem. Over 1,000 peace activists protested outside the premises where the event was held. The funds raised would be for Ateret Cohanim, a group, which actively settles Jews in illegal settlements. (AP)
PA President Arafat met with the Vatican’s Under-Secretary for Relations with States Celestino Migliore, on 29 June to discuss preparations for Bethlehem 2000. A joint Palestinian-Vatican ad hoc committee is scheduled to meet at Notre Dame, a Vatican institute, located on the boundary between West and East Jerusalem. Mr. Arafat renewed his invitation to the pontiff to visit Jerusalem for the celebrations. (AFP)
Spain’s Prime Minister Aznar visited with PA President Arafat in Gaza during his three-day trip to Israel and Gaza. Mr. Aznar commented that during his earlier visit to the area three years ago, the atmosphere had been more hopeful. (Reuters)
Israel and the PA have agreed to extend by six months the mandate for the Temporary International Presence in Hebron (TIPH). An accord was signed by Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Eitan Ben Tsur and Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat. (AFP)