- The Washington Times - Monday, October 13, 2003

JERUSALEM — A draft Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement has been drawn up by members of the Israeli opposition and elements of the Palestinian mainstream in an effort to revive official peace talks.

The proposed agreement, reached in Jordan on Sunday after intermittent talks over the past two years, calls for Israeli territorial concessions and Palestinian abandonment of demands for the return of refugees to Israel.

The attempt to lay out a peace accord independent of government policy was strongly denounced by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

“At a time when the whole world is becoming convinced by our arguments against [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat, people among us stand up and come to a final agreement with them,” he said. “This is an attempt to bring down the government at a time of war.”

Former Labor Party leader Amram Mitzna, who participated in the talks, said they were an attempt to open channels of communication.

“Maybe Sharon is worried that we will explode the illusion that there is no one [on the Palestinian side] to talk to and nothing to talk about.”

The talks were initiated by former Labor Minister Yossi Beilin — a prime mover behind the 1993 Oslo Accords in which Israelis and Palestinians came to their first major agreement, which subsequently collapsed — and former Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo.

Mr. Rabbo said yesterday that the agreement had the blessing of Mr. Arafat and other Palestinian leaders.

Mr. Arafat has in the past made the right of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel an unbending demand and reportedly brought an end to the last Israeli-Palestinian talks three years ago over that issue. Israelis remain deeply skeptical that his views have changed.

The formulators of the agreement acknowledge it is an intellectual exercise but say it will place on the public agenda for the first time a detailed document that can be rationally addressed by both sides.

Former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg said copies of the 50-page document are to be distributed to every household in Israel. Palestinian participants in the agreement, including senior members of the Fatah organization, say they will likewise conduct an information campaign among their people.

A conservative Israeli commentator, Uri Dan, said that a peace plan already is on the table — the “road map” drawn up by the international community.

“The first item in the road map is dismantlement of the terror organizations and this the Palestinians refused to do,” he said.

Here are some of the points in the draft agreement:

• Jerusalem will be divided, with Arab sections becoming part of the Palestinian state.

• Israel will withdraw from the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank, including the cities of Ariel and Efrat. Other Israeli settlement blocs will remain but some territory currently part of Israel will be handed over to the Palestinians.

• The Palestinian state will be demilitarized. Its border crossings will be supervised by an international force. Israel currently controls access and exit from Palestinian zones.

• The Palestinians will recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people.

• The Temple Mount will be under Palestinian sovereignty but an international force will ensure freedom of access for visitors of all faiths.

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