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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Israel, PLO Try to Salvage Peace After Massacre

JERUSALEM -- Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization tried on Monday to salvage their peace deal from the carnage of the Hebron mosque, but Israeli soldiers killed two more Palestinians defying curfew to protest against the massacre.


Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin implored the PLO to go to the Washington negotiating table, despite the killing of more than 40 Palestinians by a Jewish settler Friday.


A senior PLO official said the Tunis-based organization would seek U.S. help to resume talks on implementing a self-rule deal signed last September.


Azmi Shuaibi, a PLO member and official of Yasser Abed-Rabbo's FIDA party, said in Jerusalem: "The PLO is sending a special envoy to Washington to discuss terms for resuming talks in order to achieve successful negotiations."


In Tunis, PLO official Samir Ghoushe said the peace talks were suspended and no decision on resuming them had been taken. Abed-Rabbo himself insisted: "We cannot negotiate under the threat of the settler time bomb."


But other officials said that behind the tough rhetoric PLO leader Yasser Arafat did not want to lose his best chance of gaining power in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to a Jewish gunman.


"In principle we have accepted to resume the talks," Shuaibi said.


"But it doesn't mean we will start next week. We need certain requirements to ensure the success of the talks to be met by both Israel and the United States."


Arabs vented their rage at the massacre by defying a curfew in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to confront Israeli forces. Soldiers shot dead two Palestinians, one a 70-year-old man, and wounded at least 22 in clashes.


The deaths raised to 21 the number of Arabs killed in clashes since settler Baruch Goldstein raked hundreds of kneeling worshippers in Hebron's Ibrahim mosque with rifle fire.The killings have undermined the deal for Palestinian self-rule and Israeli troop withdrawal from Gaza and Jericho. It has already missed a December implementation deadline because of security differences.


Palestinians want to put the settlement issue on the peace talks agenda, a move resisted by Israel. They also want some kind of international protection for the nearly 2 million Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza who live with some 120,000 armed settlers in their midst.


Faisal al-Husseini, Arafat's senior adviser in Jerusalem, gave diplomats from the five permanent Security Council member countries a list of four PLO demands on Monday. These included removal of settlements in the Gaza Strip and at flashpoints such as Hebron, the disarming of settlers and international protection.


Israel announced a crackdown on hardcore settlers on Sunday but Arafat dismissed the measures as empty and hollow. He convened crisis talks in Tunis on Sunday night but the meeting adjourned until Monday evening without a decision.


"They are waiting for the United Nations Security Council meeting," the official said.


The Security Council, which had planned to adopt a resolution on Friday condemning the massacre, met again Saturday without agreeing on the wording.


Syria, Jordan and Lebanon pulled out of Washington's Middle East peace talks three days early because of the massacre.


Rabin, expressing sorrow over the killings, said Israel wanted to speed up talks.


"We will accelerate the talks, contacts and negotiations and even if it is delayed, peace will come," he told parliament.


"Return to the negotiating table in Taba, Paris, Cairo and Washington," Rabin urged Palestinians. "We understand your feelings and hurt along with you over the terrible tragedy. We identify with the heavy sorrow, the despair and tears and know that even after peace comes you and we shall bear the scars of war. We invite you to return."