Israel Threatens to Halt Talks With PLO
JERUSALEM — ISRAEL'S Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, angered by a tough Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) stance on the thorny issue of international border crossings into the West Bank and Gaza Strip, appears ready to delay the resumption of talks on Israel's withdrawal from the occupied territories.
PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, in weekend communications with Israel, offered to reconvene the talks on the planned military withdrawal in the Egyptian resort of Taba, today, but rejected verbal agreements on key issues that Israel says were reached with PLO negotiators in Cairo last week.
The Israeli-PLO agreements were supposed to guarantee the Israelis control of border crossings from Egypt and Jordan into the Palestinian autonomous areas of Gaza and the West Bank city of Jericho, while also granting Palestinians a border presence. Mr. Rabin, speaking at a Cabinet meeting yesterday, said he would continue talks on Israel's withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho only on the basis of the understandings reached in Cairo: ``We're not hurrying; let them sweat in Tunis,'' Israel radio quoted him as saying.
Mr. Arafat has demanded the creation of a separate border checkpoint for residents of the Gaza and Jericho autonomous entities under Palestinian and international control. Arafat also rejected an Israeli proposal to define Jericho's size at about 21 sq. miles, demanding that the enclave encompass roughly 39 sq. miles, extending south to the Dead Sea.
ollowing the Cabinet meeting, Israeli ministers lashed out at Arafat for raising what they described as ``new demands,'' which wipe out the progress made in the last two weeks of intensive talks in Oslo, Paris, and Cairo - and which throw the entire Sept. 13 agreement in principle on Palestinian self-rule into question.
``If the basis for negotiations is the agreements that were reached at Cairo, then we can start talking tonight or tomorrow,'' said Israeli Environment Minister Yossi Sarid. ``If the basis is the new demands... , then there is no basis to resume the Taba talks.''
``The PLO will have to decide to give up on its demand for a connection to and control over the external border. It's not a tactical issue, it's a matter of principle that Israel will control the external border,'' said Agriculture Minister Yaacov Tsur.
Government ministers, however, agreed to resume talks on trade with the PLO in Paris today.