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How Barak, Sharon plans differ
With Israeli elections looming, Barak and Sharon's plans emerge
By Gil Sedan
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
January 24, 2001
JERUSALEM (JTA) With less than two weeks left until
elections for prime minister, Israelis may have a general idea of what the
candidates would offer the Palestinians in peace talks, but they are short
Through leaks from the candidates' campaigns and comments from
some of their closest aides, a fairly detailed picture emerges of the
stances of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Ariel
Settlements. In campaign speeches, Sharon promises not to dismantle
However, Likud Knesset Member Reuven Rivlin, a close associate of
Sharon's, told JTA this week that Sharon's position may in fact be more
In future negotiations, ``Sharon will not provoke the Palestinians on
the settlements," Rivlin said.
``Sharon will not freeze the settlements, but he will not allow
'provocative settlements,' " Rivlin said. ``It is not clear whether he will
expansion of existing settlements."
Rivlin didn't explain how he defines ``provocative" settlements.
Barak has agreed to consider American proposals that call for the
dismantling of far-flung settlements, but wants to annex large settlement
in the West Bank close to Israel's 1967 borders that include some 80 percent
the settler population.
According to his deputy minister of defense, Ephraim Sneh, Barak will
not dismantle any settlements if the negotiations become deadlocked, despite
calls to this effect from supporters.
Jerusalem. Barak said Tuesday that Israeli and Palestinian negotiators
must find a way to share administration of Jerusalem's Old City and its holy
sites, ``so there won't be a split and divided city, and there will be free
At the same time, Barak promised that Jerusalem sites holy to Jews
``will be under our sovereignty."
So far, Barak's suggestions have proved unacceptable to the
Palestinians. Like the Palestinians, Sharon refuses to make any concessions
Jerusalem and its holy sites.
How would Sharon bridge this gap with the Palestinians?
``We will have to leave the entire issue on hold," Rivlin said.
simply, we will not negotiate over Jerusalem."
Borders. Both Barak and Sharon have accepted the notion of a
Palestinian state, but they differ on its size.
According to reports from the peace talks, Barak has offered the
Palestinians some 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with an
exchange of integral Israeli territory for the rest. Sharon says he is
offer 42 percent.
Instead of a final peace agreement, Sharon ``will offer the
a long-range interim agreement," Rivlin said. ``The bait will be an offer of
territorial continuum. Until now, the Palestinians have no territorial
Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank currently are divided by
In addition, before the current unrest Palestinians could travel on
Israeli highways along a ``safe-passage route" between the West Bank and
Gaza. At times, the Palestinians have demanded that this route across Israel
transferred to Palestinian sovereignty.
Sharon spoke recently of creating a train route from the Gaza Strip to
the West Bank city of Ramallah, providing Palestinians with a new way to
Will the Palestinians accept a train in place of land?
``We can only move forward on the basis of mutual interests," Rivlin
said. ``If they don't accept our offers, we will have to wait for a
Palestinian refugees. Sharon refuses to grant the refugees -- estimates
say there could be as many as 5 million, including their descendants -- the
to return to homes they abandoned in Israel during the 1948 War of
Barak reportedly is ready to accept a limited number of refugees on the
basis of family reunions, leaving to Israel the final decision of who would
permitted to return. The figure of 100,000 refugees is sometimes mentioned
Population interaction. If Palestinian violence persists and there is
peace agreement, Barak and Sharon share similar ideas on the relations
the two peoples.
Barak has spoken of ``unilateral separation," meaning that Israel would
treat the Palestinians as it would any hostile neighbors, erecting border
and blocking Palestinian workers from entering Israel.
In addition, many Israelis have called on Barak to dismantle isolated
settlements even without an agreement and move Israeli troops closer to the
1967 borders, unilaterally determining Israel's borders.
Sneh presented JTA with a different definition of unilateral
``What it essentially means is keeping the present settlements,
them from the Palestinian environment by more effective protection methods,
and hoping for better days," he said.
Economic separation, he insisted, is impossible.
``For better or worse, both parties are stuck with each other,'' he
In case of a total deadlock in the negotiations, the solutions
by both Barak and Sharon are similar: Try to preserve the status quo, but
prepare for the worst.
© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission.