Arafat Rejects Compromise

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JERUSALEM: Yasser Arafat angrily rejected an Israeli compromise proposal to complete its troop withdrawal from the West Bank in May 1998, a year earlier than Netanyahu has previously offered. For Arafat, it remains a year too late. U.S. envoy Dennis Ross presented the proposal to the Palestinian leader in what an Arafat aide described as an "extremely tense" six-hour meeting that lasted until early today. "The talks have hit a serious crisis," Arafat spokesman Nabil Abourdeneh told Voice of Palestine radio. "The Israelis are threatening the peace process by making such proposals." The terms for the Israeli removal from Hebron are already set. But now, both sides are playing for leverage on "final status" issues like the future of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements, Palestinian refugees and borders. So the West Bank timetable, which Arafat insists must remain at September 1997, as agreed to by Netanyahu's predecessors, has become the narrow gateway issue through which any agreement must pass.