Arafat and Clinton Hold Summit in Washington

July 7, 2008 - 8:08 PM

Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat is scheduled to meet President Clinton in Washington on Thursday in a new attempt to speed up Israeli-PA peace talks.

The Clinton-Arafat summit, which takes place on the Jewish holiday of Passover, comes after last week's meeting between the president and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

"[Arafat's] goal is very obvious," Arafat's spokesman Marwan Kanafani told CNSNews.com, saying the PA leader wanted "to put the peace process back on the right track, executing dates agreed [upon]."

Kanafani said Arafat and the PA "have doubts now" that approaching deadlines in Israeli-PA talks will be met.

In less than a month, the two parties are to have agreed upon a framework deal to guide them through the remainder of negotiations. In June, another redeployment of Israeli troops from the disputed West Bank is to take place.

September 13 Deadline Looms

And, although still five months away, September 13 remains the deadline for the resolution of all the thorny issues plaguing relations between Israel and the Palestinians - land issues, borders, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria.

Talks between Israel and the PA have been marred by hurdles since Arafat and Barak signed an agreement in Egypt last September, which contained a number of ambitious deadlines. Most have been missed.

During the last month, two rounds of secretive and intensive talks in Washington have yielded little fruit.

"Obviously nobody is pleased," Kanafani said. That was why Clinton wanted to talk with Arafat to see how best to achieve "tangible results."

The PA wanted to see an "implementation of the agreements signed by the two parties."

Sticking Points

Still outstanding are the troop pullback, in which the PA would like to receive about another 50 per cent of disputed territory while Israel is theoretically only obligated to turn over one per cent; the opening of a northern corridor through sovereign Israeli territory to connect two areas under PA-control; and economic issues.

Outstanding PA commitments are less tangible - the destruction of terrorist infrastructure, collecting an unspecified number of illegal weapons, decreasing the size of its paramilitary police force.

These "interim issues" were to have been some of the easier ones to deal with and were to have been accomplished long ago before negotiators arrived at the really tough issues. But they have proved not so easy to resolve.

Last May, according to the Oslo agreement, a Palestinian entity should already have been established and an understanding on permanent relations signed.

Arafat Stops in Cairo

Arafat telephoned Barak from Cairo where he stopped off on his way to Washington to brief Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as Barak had done a week earlier.

He wished the Israeli leader and people a good Passover holiday. Barak said he hoped the Washington summit would bring "fresh momentum" to the talks.

After his meeting in Washington, Barak announced that the U.S. would be more deeply involved in PA-Israeli discussions and drafting agreements - a concession demanded of the PA but which Israel had been reluctant to make.

Back home, Barak has been preparing Israelis for expected upcoming Israeli concessions. In a pre-Passover interview on Israeli television, Barak he at Israel's need to cede large tracts of land to an independent Palestinian entity.

"What will emerge from an agreement is not a limited autonomy or a protectorate," Barak said.

"There will not be good neighborliness between the two countries if one of them is a collection of islands on a map," he added, referring to the 40 per cent of West Bank territory - spread out in patches - which the PA currently controls.