Arafat threatens to resign over stalled peace talks

GAZA City, Gaza Strip (AP) — Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat has threatened to resign if the United States pressures him to accept Israel’s skimpy territorial offer, aides said Wednesday, underscoring Palestinian gloom over the stymied peace process.
It was not clear how serious Arafat’s threat was or if he was simply using it as a negotiating tool. Arafat has not groomed a successor and his resignation would likely bring the peace process to a complete halt — a scenario the United States would not want to see happen.
In a blow to U.S. efforts to revive the process, Arafat also rejected a U.S. proposal for Israel to withdraw troops from West Bank land in very small steps, each followed by Palestinian compliance with Israel’s demands on security and other issues.
Abourdeneh appeared to contradict U.S. State Department spokesman James Rubin, who said earlier this week that Israel and the Palestinians had accepted the U.S. proposal in principle.
The Palestinians, who have full or partial autonomy in 27 percent of the West Bank, believe the pullouts must leave them in control of nine-tenths of the territory.
But Israel offered only about 2 percent in a first stage that was rejected, reportedly less than 10 percent in a second and wants to cancel the third. Furthermore, Israel says any pullback is conditional on the Palestinians meeting a 12-page list of demands, most dealing with security.
Under a plan proposed to Arafat and Netanyahu by President Clinton last week, the second pullback reportedly would be broken down into smaller steps over 80 days, with the Palestinians responding to each troop movement with a security gesture; at the end, Israel would have pulled out of 12 percent of the West Bank.
In the Gaza Strip, meanwhile, dozens of Palestinians gathered near the fence of the Katif bloc of Jewish settlements and threw stones at Israeli soldiers Wednesday when they arrived, Israeli military sources said.
They said the troops shot and wounded one Palestinian who tried to light a firebomb and throw it at them.