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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Netanyahu to Slate Summit With Arafat

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is expected to meet with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat within two weeks, ahead of a planned visit to the United States, Israeli media said Monday.

Netanyahu spokesman Michael Stoltz said it was probable the two leaders would meet, but that "the question of when or where has not yet been determined.''

The Haaretz daily said the meeting was likely to take place within two weeks, and Israel's Channel 1 TV said Netanyahu was expected to hold the talks before leaving for the United States on Sept. 10.

The Haaretz daily said the way for a Netanyahu-Arafat meeting was paved by the Palestinian Authority's decision to close three offices in contested east Jerusalem on Sunday. The autonomy agreements restrict Palestinian Authority activities to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

PLO officials said Monday Israel had no right to demand closure of three Palestinian offices in Arab East Jerusalem but it had shut two to deprive Israel's prime minister of any excuse to slow peace moves.

They rejected Israel's charge the offices were carrying out activities of the Palestinian Authority, which according to an interim peace accord is restricted to working in self-rule enclaves set up under the deal in Gaza and the West Bank.

"When these offices, which they claim are Palestinian Authority offices, are closed, we will strip Israel of any false excuses to continue freezing the peace process," one official of the Palestine Liberation Organization said.

"We expect Israel now to reopen talks and to fulfil its commitments," he said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office meanwhile denied a report by Israel's state-run Channel One that said he would meet Palestinian President Yasser Arafat in two weeks.

Netanyahu has said he will hold talks with Arafat only when he deems it necessary for Israel's security.

Israeli President Ezer Weizman, answering a "distress" call from Arafat, said on Sunday he would invite the Palestinian leader to his home but set no date.

Weizman made the announcement at a hurriedly called news conference with Netanyahu hours after a newspaper said he had threatened to meet Arafat over Netanyahu's objections. PLO officials said Israel demanded the Authority shut the Jerusalem offices at a meeting between Netanyahu envoys and Palestinian officials in Gaza last week.

They said the envoys pledged in return to resume peace talks and implement a redeployment of Israeli troops in the West Bank town of

In his most direct comments to date on the peace process' role in the economy, Netanyahu said Sunday the peace efforts are "a little less central than is believed.''

"The attempt to justify peace with the economic issue ... does not always correspond to reality,'' said Netanyahu, delivering a major economic policy speech to a conference of Israeli business and industry leaders.

The previous Labor government saw peace as the key factor behind a 40 percent economic expansion in the past five years. It cited a growth in exports because of new markets in countries that once shunned Israel for political reasons.

Netanyahu has said the growth was mainly driven by past economic reforms and a consumption and investment boom brought on by massive immigration from the former Soviet Union. (AP, Reuters)