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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Peace Talks Resume After Walkout

JERUSALEM -- Palestinian negotiators rejected Israeli proposals for new security arrangements in the West Bank town of Hebron, and only resumed peace talks after a U.S. mediator intervened, a participant said Tuesday.


"We absolutely do not accept these proposals,'' said Palestinian negotiator Hassan Asfour. "The talks were conducted yesterday in a bad atmosphere.''


Still, both sides agreed to resume negotiations Tuesday at the Erez crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. President Clinton's Middle East coordinator, Dennis Ross, has been attending the talks.


The latest crisis came just hours before Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was to meet with Israel's president, Ezer Weizman, at the Israeli leader's private villa in the Mediterranean resort of Caesarea. Arafat was to be flown to the resort from his Gaza City headquarters by an Israeli military helicopter.


It will only be Arafat's second visit to Israel since he took the helm of the Palestinian self-rule government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in July 1994. In November 1995, Arafat paid a secret condolence visit to the widow of slain Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.


Weizman has a largely ceremonial role, and Tuesday's meeting is important for its symbolism, rather than its content. Arafat's role as Israel's most important peace partner is being reaffirmed, and Weizman is signaling to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he must move faster in the negotiations.


In veiled criticism of Netanyahu, Weizman said Monday: "I am a great believer in personal contacts, but we must put something on the table. We cannot simply say, 'It will be alright.'''


The key issue in the current negotiations is the future of Hebron, the last West Bank town still under Israeli occupation.


Netanyahu told parliament on Monday that he would pull Israeli troops out of most of the city, as promised in earlier peace agreements. However, Netanyahu said Israel has the right to demand better security arrangements for the 450 Jewish settlers who live in the town of 94,000 Palestinians.


In Monday's negotiations, Israel said it wanted to retain the right of "hot pursuit'' of suspected Palestinian assailants into areas that will come under Palestinian control, radio reports said.


The Palestinians rejected the proposals, said Asfour, the Palestinian negotiator.


The Palestinians offered instead that joint Israeli-Palestinian security patrols in Hebron be increased, and that international observers be deployed in the city. Israel rejected the offer, saying only the Israeli army could protect settlers.


Israel radio said both sides left the table Monday night, and only returned after Ross intervened.


Netanyahu, meanwhile, proposed in a speech to parliament Monday that the two sides begin negotiations on a final peace agreement immediately after the dispute over Hebron has been settled.