PLO agrees to partial redeployment


By Jennifer Thompson
The PLO executive council met in Tunis from August 14-16 to discuss the partial redeployment document agreed at Taba by PLO Chairman Yassar Arafat and Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres on August 11. Attended by ten of the eighteen members, the executive voted to accept the partial redeployment timetable offered by Israel. Among those absent was Farouk Qaddoumi, head of the PLO's foreign affairs department who, on August 14, released a statement highly critical of the agreement and the negotiations process.
The partial redeployment involves three timetables for Israeli military withdrawal from the West Bank, and includes some population centres but not all. Redeployment from some areas is dependent on construction of 110km of new "settler" roads bypassing Palestinian areas. Elections will be held after the first stage of redeployment although the participation of East Jerusalem Palestinians remains in dispute.
Agreement has also not yet been reached on the West Bank city of Hebron, where Israel insists the military must stay to protect a group of fanatical settlers at the heart of the city. The PLO executive insists that Israel withdraw the military and settlers. Palestinians are regularly attacked by armed settlers and held a rally in Hebron on August 16 demanding that the settlers and military withdraw, and threatening to boycott the Palestinian elections.
Speaking to the Israeli media on August 13, after the Israeli cabinet approved the agreement, Peres said the Taba deal kept 73% of the land, 97% of the "security" and 80% of the water in Israeli hands. The agreement is expected to be signed in Washington on September 14.