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Arafat Praised for Delaying Declaration of Palestinian Statehood

Aired September 11, 2000 - 6:14 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: An Israeli official says the Middle East peace process is still alive one day after a concession by the Palestinians.

CNN's Jerrold Kessel reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yasser Arafat is reaping praise for the Palestinian decision to hold off on declaring an independent state for now, reflecting his own hopes.

YASSER ARAFAT, PRES., PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY: This is another chance for peace.

KESSEL: The vote in the Palestinian Central Council delaying a statehood proclamation was far from unanimous. Many of the 129 lawmakers did not vote: a minority of 58 supporting Mr. Arafat's proposal. But he seemed ready to risk an erosion of credibility.

ARAFAT: This is the Palestinian democracy and you have to respect it. It was not easy meeting.

KESSEL: Israeli spokesmen welcomed the Palestinian decision not to press independence moves now.

ISAAC HERZOG, ISRAELI CABINET SECRETARY: It will enable another kind of window of opportunity to see whether one can try and reach an agreement.

KESSEL: Israel attributes the Palestinian decision to world pressure on Mr. Arafat not to undertake a unilateral move that could have completely scuttled the faltering peace process.

CHEMI SHALEV, ISRAELI POLITICAL ANALYST: Mr. Barak has succeeded in undermining Arafat's willingness to achieve international recognition for a state if its declared unilaterally. I'm not sure that this disadvantage will hold in the long run, because if and when the negotiations do seem to have run out of steam, Mr. Arafat can expect more international support.

KESSEL: After the Palestinian decision, the peace process does now have some weeks, at most two to three months breathing space. But seven weeks since the inconclusive Camp David summit, the two sides still seem to be talking at cross-purposes about peace and talking tough.

NABIL ABU RUDEINEH, ARAFAT SPOKESMAN: We learned (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in 1967, including Jerusalem. Without that, this is the real Palestinian line. This is the real Arab-Islamic line. Without that, there won't be any agreement.

SHLOMO BEN AMI, ISRAELI ACTING FOREIGN MINISTER: If we go back to square one, I see real difficulties.

KESSEL (on camera): With a final peace deal seemingly slipping from their grasps, both Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat are saying they'll only be a breakthrough if the other gives ground, and that they won't make peace at any price. They are also suggesting they have other strategic options, but that may simply be a tactic to push the other man into a peace deal.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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