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Monday, 22 January, 2001, 12:38 GMT
Clinton's Mid-East peace plans
Orthodox Jews in Jerusalem
Bill Clinton's plan includes a division of Jerusalem
By BBC News Online's Tarik Kafala

The United States' compromise proposals for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict seem to offer the best chance of reaching an agreement in the near future, despite the serious reservations of both sets of negotiators.

Against a background of months of violence, many observers have been surprised that the plan has got anywhere at all.

The mood among Palestinians and Israelis is not for compromise, and even if a settlement is reached, it is far from clear that leaders on either side will be able to sell it to their sceptical supporters.

BBC News Online looks at what is known of the proposals put forward by former President Bill Clinton as he made his final bid to broker a deal in the Middle East.


Jerusalem

The Camp David talks in July 2000 collapsed because of the failure of the negotiators to compromise over the holy city.

Under the new Clinton plan, Israel is called on to make dramatic concessions that have not previously been on the official agenda.

Under the US proposals the old city of Jerusalem would be divided:

  • Muslim, Christian and Armenian quarters to go to a Palestinian state

  • Jewish quarter to go to Israel

  • Israeli corridor established through the Armenian quarter from the Jaffa Gate allowing access from the west of Jerusalem to the Jewish quarter

  • The Haram al-Sharif area or Temple Mount, which includes the al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, would go to a Palestinian state

  • Everything below the lip of the Haram al-Sharif that is within the Jewish quarter, including the Western Wall, would be under Israeli sovereignty

The Israeli opposition has said that it will not abide by any agreement or treaty based on these plans, and Palestinian negotiators have complained that the US proposals break up the areas of Palestinian Jerusalem into tiny disconnected islands.

The plans for the Western Wall and the Haram al-Sharif also seem to be predicated on Israelis and Palestinians co-existing peacefully in very close proximity - which is by no means guaranteed.

Refugees

In return for Israeli concessions on Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees and their descendents, about 3.7 million in all, are being asked to give up their claim to a right of return to Israel.

This is potentially the most difficult problem for Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

He is under tremendous pressure from all shades of Palestinian opinion, including his own Fatah organisation, not to concede on this issue.

Palestinian negotiators insist that the right of return to Israel has to remain, even if it is not exercised.

Under the Washington plan:

  • Israel to allow up to 100,000 refugees to return to the Jewish state

  • Others to be resettled elsewhere with compensation from an international fund

West Bank and Gaza

The US plan proposes that Israel should cede 95% of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip.

In return for taking some West Bank land containing Jewish settlers, Israel has offered the Palestinians more land in the Negev desert.

The Palestinians have outlined several objections to this proposed territorial division:

  • Israel would be handing back closer to 90% of the West Bank if Jerusalem and the Dead Sea are included in the calculation

  • The parts of the West Bank that Israel plans to hold on to would break up the area so severely as to make it impossible to build a viable Palestinian state

  • Israel to keep many of its settlements east of Jerusalem, which Palestinians say would leave Arab East Jerusalem almost cut off from the West Bank

Israel plans to keep hold of three blocks of Jewish settlements in the West Bank:

  • The Ariel block near Nablus in the north

  • The Maal Adumim corridor between Jerusalem and Jericho in the centre

  • Etzion, near Hebron, in the south

Under the US plan, an international force would supervise the implementation of the final agreement and Israel would be given three years to withdraw from Palestinian territory.

Israel would be allowed to keep a limited force in the Jordan Valley for another three years, and three early warning stations for 10 years.

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