President Clinton pushed for an agreement and finally got one between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Yasir Arafat after nine days of sometimes all-night negotiations with Clinton and Jordon’s King Hussein offering a final push at the secluded Wye River Plantation on Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay.
In a signing ceremony in the East Room of the White House, Israel agreed to withdraw from an additional 13% of occupied territory on the West Bank. Arafat vowed to do “everything in my power” to maintain security and safety for every Israeli, so that, “no Israeli mother will have to worry when their child is late returning home.” A month’s worth of efforts by the State Department and the White House culminated in the land-for-peace-deal, which marked the first time in over 17 months that the two sides have talked.
Arafat and Netanyahu praised each other as “co-partners,” praised Clinton’s determination and clear-headedness even when working through the night, and praised Jordan’s King Hussein for providing understanding and inspiration. Netanyahu also thanked his wife, with him during the tough decision- making, who constantly reminded him of their kids and what it would mean to the childrens’ future.
Palestinians will get an airport and safe passage for those traveling to and from the West Bank. They will see the freeing of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Israel gets new security measures implemented in Palestinian controlled land to be overseen by U.S. intelligence agencies. The Palestinian charter, which calls for dismantling Israel, will be amended in a future ceremony that Clinton will attend.
The signing ceremony was filled with emotion. King Hussein, who is receiving cancer treatments at the U.S.’s Mayo Clinic, said he would have come if he had only an ounce of strength. And Arafat remembered his “co-partner” from the 1993 Oslo accords, Israeli Prime Minister Menacham Begin, who was killed by an assassin’s bullet. This deal puts back on track the Oslo agreement, and its final settlement talks involving the city of Jerusalem and statehood for Palestinians.
*Update 10/31/98: Both governments have ratified the above agreement setting the stage for final settlement talks.