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West Bank Accord Reflects Concessions : Mideast: Israel will hand over civil rule of 420 Arab villages but retain control of security.

August 12, 1995|MARJORIE MILLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

JERUSALEM — Under the partial agreement for expanding Palestinian rule in the West Bank that Israeli and Palestinian leaders announced Friday, the Israeli government made some concessions on civilian rule in exchange for concessions from the Palestinians on security issues.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Friday that Israel will hand over civil administration of most of the 420 Arab villages in the West Bank, but that Israeli troops will retain control of security in the villages and surrounding rural areas.

"Every movement by Palestinians on jointly used roads must be coordinated and approved by us," Peres told Israel Radio.

Peres also said the two sides had agreed that Palestinian prisoners would be released from Israeli jails in three stages--the first immediately after the accord is signed, a second with Palestinian elections and a third when talks are under way for the final stage of the 1993 peace agreement.

But they did not determine exactly how many of the 5,500 Palestinian prisoners would be freed or the criteria for their release.

Few other details of the agreement emerged as Peres spent most of the day behind closed doors, briefing Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and top security officials on the package for the redeployment of Israeli troops and the holding of elections for a governing Palestinian council.

Aides to Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said they had agreed not to discuss the accord before Peres presents it to the full Israeli Cabinet on Sunday.

Under the original peace agreement, the interim--or second--stage of the accord was to have been signed over a year ago, with redeployment beginning in July, 1994, and elections within three months of that. Peres and Arafat have missed so many of their own deadlines for a second-stage agreement that they do not set them anymore.

In part, this is because Rabin's political will to move forward on the accord has been dampened by a combination of terrorist attacks by Islamic fundamentalist groups opposed to the accord and a growing campaign by the right-wing and the Jewish settler movement; both Israeli groups oppose handing over lands in the area they refer to by its biblical name, Judea and Samaria.

With the terrorist attacks that have killed more than 130 Jews since the peace process began, Rabin has been increasingly insistent on making the Palestinians prove they can control security at each step before moving on to another.

Last month, Israel agreed to pull out of at least four West Bank cities before elections. During this round of negotiations, Israel agreed to an 18-month timetable for turning over West Bank villages and rural areas to the Palestinians after elections are held.

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But Israel did not commit itself to a firm map for redeployment and is unlikely to tell the Palestinians how far its troops will withdraw or the size of the areas Palestinians will control, until Israel sees what happens with security in the cities.

Israel's chief negotiator, Uri Savir, told Israel Radio that the Israeli army would still control the West Bank after the accord: "Except in the actual cities, this is true."

Peres said the main stumbling blocks to finalizing the interim agreement were control over Hebron, the West Bank city where about 400 Jews live amid 100,000 Palestinians, and water rights.

Palestinians want Israeli troops out of Hebron and all of the six other West Bank cities before elections. Some Palestinians say the Jews should be removed from downtown Hebron to the nearby settlement of Kiryat Arba.

The government says it wants to continue to protect the Jewish families during Palestinian elections and that it will not evacuate any residents from the West Bank during the interim stage.

On the other difficult issue of water, the two sides said earlier in the day that a tripartite committee would be established with the United States to examine options. Israeli government spokesman Uri Dromi observed: "Many things are still not decided--elections, the size of the Palestinian council, the participation of East Jerusalem Palestinians. But they all pale next to the issues of Hebron and water."

Ahmad Tibi, an adviser to Arafat, demonstrated the deep level of Palestinian anger over the issue when he said in an interview, "According to the Israelis, 100,000 Palestinians are less important than 30 families of Jews inside Hebron. These fanatic Jews get more consideration."

Despite these difficulties, negotiators still hope to complete an accord this month, with the goal of holding Palestinian elections by the end of the year.

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