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Last Updated: Monday, 13 October, 2003, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
New 'peace deal' angers Israel
Gunmen
The negotiators believe the plan can end the violence
A draft peace agreement aimed at offering an alternative route to peace in the Middle East has been angrily attacked by Israeli ministers.

The unofficial plan - known as the Geneva Accord - was finalised over the weekend during a meeting of Israeli opposition politicians and Palestinian representatives in Jordan.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told the Jerusalem Post it was "not helpful" to make people think there might be something other than the international plan known as the roadmap.

His Justice Minister, Tommy Lapid, told the BBC World Service's Hungarian section that the draft "gives peace a bad name by relenting to all Palestinian demands and not taking into account basic Israeli demands".

Full details of the plan, which comes after two years of secret negotiations, are due to be released when the initiative is formally adopted in Geneva next month.

Sources say there is a key trade-off at its heart - Palestinians would not demand the right of return for refugees.

In exchange, they would get sovereignty over one of the most disputed religious sites in the Middle East, Jerusalem's Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif.

The list... is unacceptable to the Israeli Government and to the great majority of the Israeli population
Tommy Lapid
Israeli justice minister

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Jerusalem says a lot of the points are sensitive issues that the roadmap pushes to one side, paying more attention to ending the intifada, or Palestinian uprising, which started three years ago.

Two of the architects of the plan, former Israeli Justice Minister, Yossi Beilin, and former Palestinian minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, have travelled to Egypt to try to raise international backing.

Mr Beilin, who met with senior Egyptian officials to discuss the draft on Monday, said adopting the document could cause a "big revolution" in the Middle East.

But Israeli politicians at home, particularly those from the right, say the new proposals are not helpful.

Mr Sharon, who has long maintained there is no-one to talk to on the Palestinian side, accused left-wing Israelis of trying to bring down his coalition government.

Mr Lapid also lambasted the left-wing efforts, insisting the roadmap was still alive.

"They want to divide the city of Jerusalem," he said.

"They want to remove the settlement of Ariel with 22,000 settlers. The list, which is unacceptable to the Israeli Government and to the great majority of the Israeli population, is a piece of Palestinian propaganda."

Free deal

The former Israeli Labour Prime Minister, Ehud Barak, said the proposals enabled the Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat to argue that the impasse in peace negotiations "stems not from terrorism but from Ariel Sharon's uncompromising policies".

The Palestinians involved, including former ministers, are reported to have the backing of Mr Arafat.

They, along with their Israeli counterparts, say the accord is aimed at generating public interest and support.

Palestinian MP Fares Kadura told Israeli radio he wanted to make the plan more than just an academic exercise.

"We are ready to campaign to win support for this plan on the Palestinian street because we want a better life and we believe we've found a way to achieve it," he said.

Author Amos Oz, who attended the meeting in Jordan, said the right's reaction was "predictable and understandable".

"If we continue to prove that there is common ground and that we can reach agreements on all issues, even the most disputed ones, the right-wing hawks lose their raison d'etre," he told the AFP news agency.

"This draft is now being offered gratis to the government."

Former Israeli negotiator David Kimche, who also took part in the meeting, said: "We did this in light of the fact that the government has not been trying to reach any meaningful negotiation and that it has been accepted in the country that there are no partners for peace."




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The BBC's Barbara Plett
"The Israeli government has responded quite angrily"



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