Arabs and Israelis resumed peace talks Monday with much of the focus on diametrically opposed ideas about Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories.
This fourth round of direct bilateral negotiations since last October's groundbreaking Madrid Middle East peace conference began last week and is due to wrap up Wednesday.While there has been little sign of progress in separate talks between Israel and Syria, Jordan and Lebanon; Israelis and Palestinians have at least presented formal plans for Palestinian self-rule in the territories.
They are vastly different in underlying concept and content, but the fact they are on the table has given the negotiations a structure within which the sides can work.
The talks aim to reach agreement by next October on arrangements for Palestinian self-rule for an interim five-year period, a deadline that looked optimistic when it was first laid down in Madrid and now looks increasingly unrealistic.
Under the agreed framework, at the beginning of the third year of the interim period the parties would begin new talks to determine the ultimate status of the disputed territories, which Israel captured in the Middle East war of 1967.
The Israeli proposal offers Palestinians functional administration of local courts, the appointment of civil employees, various branches of agriculture and fisheries, education, culture, budget and taxation, health, industry, commerce, tourism, labor and social welfare, local police, local transportation and communications and municipal affairs.
But it says "the sole responsibility for external and internal security as well as public order will be that of Israel."