On the eve of the first high-level contact in months, the Palestinians' chief negotiator said Saturday that his side is willing only to listen to the Israelis - not to renegotiate a U.S. pullback plan.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's deputy Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Mordechai were to meet Sunday in Tel Aviv at the urging of Secretary of State Madeleine Albright."Our agenda is to listen to what Mr. Mordechai tells us," said chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat, referring to an American initiative for an Israeli pullback from the West Bank.
"We just don't want to be blamed for not going, and that's why we're going," he said. "Albright told us that the Israelis have ideas."
The Palestinians have accepted the proposal for Israel to withdraw from another 13 percent of the West Bank and the PLO Executive Committee to annul parts of the PLO charter calling for Israel's destruction. Israel has balked, insisting the covenant be rescinded by the much larger Palestine National Council.
Erekat said the Palestinian delegations have been assured that the initiative is not up for renegotiation and said the Palestinians "will not accept that the initiative's separate elements be revisited."
The United States has urged the sides to hold two or three meetings within a week to try to resolve their differences over the Israeli troop withdrawal and procedures for amending the Palestinian national covenant.
Meanwhile, in the tense West Bank town of Hebron, Palestinians clashed Saturday with Israeli soldiers. Two Palestinian youths were detained after throwing rocks at Jewish settlers, Israeli police said.