US President Clinton met Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin on 16 March in an attempt to find a compromise to bring the Palestinians back to the negotiating table. Israeli concessions so far have failed to mollify the PLO, which suspended talks after the 25 February Hebron massacre.
Israel banned two anti-Arab Jewish groups, Kach and Kahane Chai, on 13 March, calling them terrorist organisations. The groups are opposed to the peace process, and have expressed total support for Baruch Goldstein, the settler who carried out the Hebron massacre.
Members of the two groups face up to 20 years in prison. Four activists have now been detained.
But Palestinians are sceptical whether the ban will lead to an effective crackdown on radical settler activity. Measures introduced at the end of February to disarm some of the settlers have resulted in fewer than five people having their weapons removed. The PLO has demanded that all the settlers should be disarmed and an international force deployed in the occupied territories to protect Palestinians from further attacks.
The PLO is also angered by the UN security council’s failure to condemn the massacre. The UN was expected to take a vote on a resolution on 18 March. The vote has been delayed so far, mainly by the intervention of the US.
The main points of the draft resolution expected to be agreed on 18 March include the following:
Reaffirming the relevant UN resolutions concerning land occupied by Israel in 1967, including Jerusalem. It also reaffirms the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying force from populating occupied land. Israel has always argued against applying this convention to the territories occupied in 1967.
Calling upon Israel to implement measures to confiscate arms to prevent illegal acts by Israeli settlers.
Calling for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety of the Palestinians in the occupied territories, including a temporary international presence provided for in the declaration of principles
Requesting the co-sponsors of the peace talks, Russia and the US, to continue their efforts to invigorate the peace process.
Russia has already indicated its desire to push forward the peace negotiations. The Russian Foreign Affairs Ministry announced on 15 March that Rabin and PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat had accepted invitations by President Yeltsin to hold talks in Moscow. Arafat will visit the Russian capital on 19 April and Rabin will visit on 24-26 April.