February 9, 1998
BY BRIAN TAYLOR
Visits to Washington by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority president Yasir Arafat January 20-23 for separate meetings with U.S. president William Clinton resolved none of the issues around Tel Aviv’s withdrawal from West Bank settlements.
According to agreements signed by the Israeli government and the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1995, the first of three Israeli troop withdrawals from the West Bank was to have been carried out in September 1996, followed by two others six and 12 months later. The third withdrawal was to leave Palestinians holding as much as 91 percent of the land in the West Bank. But so far the Israeli government has not carried out even the first pullback. Only 3 percent of the land in West Bank is under full Palestinian control. Another 24 percent is administratively run by the Palestinian Authority, but under Israeli military control. And the rest of the territory is held completely by Tel Aviv.
Clinton’s main proposal was to urge the Palestinian Authority to crack down more on liberation forces there. He also proposed that the Netanyahu regime pull back its forces from about 10 percent of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, which Tel Aviv has occupied since 1967. This is a far cry from the 60 percent demanded by Palestinian officials.
Netanyahu said no pullouts would take place until Arafat organizes a “serious” crackdown on liberation organizations. In fact, the Israeli regime decided to begin building six new 300-room housing units in Jabal Abu Ghneim, a Zionist settlement in the West Bank, according to Palestinian Cabinet general secretary Ahmed Abdul Rahman.
In the Gaza Strip, a small area of land that is also occupied by Tel Aviv, there were several protests January 23-24 demanding that Israeli settlers leave Gush Kitif in southern Gaza. “Relations between Palestinians and Israelis are boiling down to square one -the relationship between the occupied and the occupier,” Ziad Abu-Amr told the New York Times.
Abu-Amr, a Palestinian government representative from Gaza City, added that if the so-called peace process does not advance, “the result will be resistance.”
Meanwhile, millions of Iranians took to the streets across the country on January 23 – Jerusalem Day – in support of the Palestinian struggle.