Palestinians Want Israel to Adhere to Wye Pact
In a firm “no” to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, the Palestinian Cabinet said Friday that it would not agree to any changes in the Wye Plantation interim peace accord.
Barak has proposed skipping over parts of the accord, including one of two Israeli troop pullbacks in the West Bank, and to quickly begin negotiations on a permanent peace agreement.
Wye stipulates three Israeli troop pullbacks from a total of 13.1% of the West Bank.
Barak’s predecessor, Benjamin Netanyahu, withdrew from 2% before suspending the agreement amid allegations that the Palestinians did not fulfill their security commitments.
Barak has said he is concerned about handing over territory that might make Jewish settlements vulnerable to terror attacks by Palestinian extremists. Such attacks, he hinted, could stop the negotiations.
In a meeting this week, Barak won grudging agreement from Arafat to consider the Israeli proposals and give an answer in two weeks.
However, the Palestinian Cabinet said after its weekly session Friday that the Palestinian position remained unchanged.
“We see the implementation of Wye in the format that was agreed upon as a serious test of the credibility of Ehud Barak and the Israeli government,” Cabinet minister Nabil Amr said.
Barak has said he would carry out the agreement in full if the Palestinians could not be persuaded to accept changes.
The Cabinet also demanded that Barak dismantle 37 hilltop outposts that have been set up by Jewish settlers in the West Bank since the signing of Wye at the White House in October.
The settlers said they wanted to seize as much land as possible to make it more difficult for Israel to hand over territory.
Barak has said he would not tolerate such land grabs. Several days ago, when settlers tried to establish another outpost, he had the army quickly remove it.