An aide to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Thursday that Israel was still hopeful of making headway during the slow-moving tenth round of Washington peace negotiations but a dramatic breakthrough was not likely.
"There is a hope the talks will produce some progress with the Palestinians and the Syrians. Any small step forward would be encouraging," said Gad Ben-Ari, Rabin's spokesman."The fact that we continue to discuss issues of substance gives hope for some kind of progess," he added.
Ben-Ari's remarks were made in response to a hint by U.S Secretary of State Warren Christopher Wednesday that the Clinton administration may have a few ideas for spurring the Arab and Israeli negotiators to make tangible progress during the current round of talks.
"It is relatively early in this round of talks . . . I'd guide you to watch these matters develop over the next several days," Christopher told reporters in Washington.
Ben-Ari said Israel had "no hidden information" about imminent progress and blamed Palestinian negotiatiors for blocking agreement on a declaration of principles by insisting that East Jerusalem be included in self-rule arrangements.
Israel annexed East Jerusalem after capturing it along with the West Bank during the 1967 Middle East war. It considers the area an indivisible part of its capital city. Palestinians view East Jerusalem as the capital of the independent state they hope to carve out in the territories.
In a separate development, a spokesman for the extremist anti-Arab Kach Party said a party leader had been dispatched to the United States to raise funds from American Jews for the arming of a militia in the occupied territories.
"If the Israeli army withdraws, we will need more than just rifles and guns," said Noam Federman, a Kach spokesman. The party leader, whom he would not name but who enjoys dual American and Israeli citizenship, was "getting a good response" during fund-raising efforts at synagogues in New York, Miami, Washington, D.C., and Pittsburgh, Federman said.