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Chances for an Arafat-Netanyahu meeting deteriorate

SHARE Chances for an Arafat-Netanyahu meeting deteriorate

Israeli troops and Palestinian stone-throwers clashed in the West Bank Tuesday, and chances for a meeting between Benjamin Netanyahu and Yasser Arafat grew more remote as both attached conditions to such a summit.

Netanyahu's aide said Israel would want to make security the main issue, while Arafat suggested he was not ready to participate in a public relations event that did not produce results.Israel and the Palestinians have been sliding deeper into crisis since construction began last week on a neighborhood for 30,000 Jews in east Jerusalem, the sector the Palestinians claim as a future capital.

A suicide bombing Friday by an Islamic militant in Tel Aviv has been followed by daily clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops.

The two sides blame each other for the violence and have increasingly hardened their positions. On Sunday, Israel told the Palestinians it would not resume peace talks in earnest until six demands are met - including the disarming and arrest of Islamic militants.

The Palestinians balked, and one of Arafat's security chiefs said the Palestinians would no longer cooperate with Israel on security matters, such as reining in militants. In the past, Palestinian police have alerted Israel to plots by Islamic militants to carry out attacks.

Ahmed Qureia, the speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, said Tuesday that the Palestinian Authority would not move against its own people at a time when Israel is violating the spirit of the peace accords.

"We cannot comply with Mr. Netanyahu's request to guard his bulldozers, which are confiscating our land, which are killing the agreement," Qureia told BBC Television.

Netanyahu's anti-terrorism adviser, Meir Dagan, told reporters dozens of attempted attacks had been thwarted in the past six months, some with the help of Palestinian security.

The Palestinians, he said, are obliged by the peace agreement to cooperate on security and he hoped they would "return to their senses soon."

Israel has accused Arafat of giving the green light to Islamic militants to carry out terror attacks in Israel.

Clashes broke out Tuesday in the West Bank towns of Hebron and Bethlehem, where hundreds of Palestinians hurled stones at Israeli troops, who responded with tear gas and rubber bullets. In Bethlehem, eight protesters were hurt by rubber bullets.

In Bethlehem, Palestinian police did not interfere. Police in Hebron arrived at the scene half an hour after the stone-throwing began, formed a human chain and pushed the protesters back.

Israel is continuing to ban Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza from entering Israel.