A group of prominent Israeli and Palestinian politicians, working outside official channels, have written a symbolic peace agreement that they hope could be a foundation for future negotiations. \nThe 50-page draft agreement was completed over the weekend in neighboring Jordan by the two delegations, which included current parliament members and former Cabinet members on both sides. \nThe proposal offers highly specific solutions, and calls for major compromises on the most sensitive issues that have torpedoed previous peace efforts, ranging from the status of Palestinian refugees to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. \nOfficial planning toward a peace agreement is currently frozen. \nThis new proposal has no official sanction, and the right-wing Israeli government immediately denounced it, calling it irresponsible, freelance diplomacy. \n"The public rejected these same political figures," Limor Livnat, Israel's education minister, said of the Israeli delegation, led by left-wing politicians. "In no democratic country would this be acceptable," he said. \nThe Palestinian Authority did not immediately comment, though the Palestinian team included senior figures with close ties to Palestinian President Yasser Arafat. \nThe Swiss government supported the two-year negotiating effort, and the proposal, dubbed the "Geneva Accords," will be formally signed at a ceremony planned for next month in that Swiss city. \nThe Israeli delegation was led by former justice minister Yossi Beilin. The most prominent Palestinian was Yasser Abed Rabbo, a former information minister. \nUnder the proposal, a Palestinian state would be created that would include the entire Gaza Strip and almost all of the West Bank. The capital would be in the Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem. \nThe plan identifies about 20 of the larger Israeli settlements among the 140 in the West Bank that Israel would keep, and Israel would give the Palestinians land in southern Israel in compensation. \nOn another delicate issue, the plan calls for the Palestinians to have ultimate control over Jeru-salem's most important and contested holy site, called the Noble Sanctuary by Muslims, the mosque compound in East Jerusalem. \nIsrael would relinquish its claim of sovereignty over the site, which Jews call the Temple Mount. Israel would keep full control of the Western Wall, the Jewish place of prayer that borders the compound. \nRegarding another complicated question, 4 million Palestinian refugees from the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 and their descendants would be allowed to live in a future Palestinian state, move to a third country or receive compensation for their losses. But they could not return to their old land inside Israel without Israeli consent, according to the plan. \n"The Palestinians tried very hard to put the word `return' in the document," said David Kimche, a member of the Israeli delegation. \nThe Israeli side was able to win this concession by giving the Palestinians full control of the Jerusalem holy site, he added. \nThe delegations began their talks from the point where Israeli-Palestinian negotiations broke off in January 2001, several months after the current fighting began. \nEhud Barak, the Israeli prime minister who pushed hard for a deal, was roundly defeated in a February 2001 election by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. \nThe agreement is similar to proposals made by Barak. But he condemned the delegations' efforts today on the grounds that it is the government's job to handle any negotiations. \n"This is a fictitious, eccentric agreement," Barak told Israel radio.
LIFE GOES ON: After a strict lockdown that left millions on the brink of starvation, Indians embrace work to avoid starvation and get ready for several major festivals India is on course to top the world in COVID-19 cases, but from Maharashtra’s whirring factories to Kolkata’s thronging markets, people are back at work — and eager to forget the pandemic for festival season. After a strict lockdown in March that left millions on the brink of starvation, the government and people of the world’s second-most populous country decided life must go on. Sonali Dange, for instance, has two young daughters and an elderly mother-in-law to look after. She was hospitalized this year in excruciating pain after catching the novel coronavirus. However, after the lockdown exhausted the family’s savings, the 29-year-old had
A COVID-19 outbreak among hundreds of Russian and Ukrainian fishers flown to New Zealand to bolster its struggling deep-sea fishing industry has prompted that country’s largest daily increase in infections in months, authorities said yesterday. More than 230 fishers were flown in from Moscow last week, with 18 of the crew members then testing positive for COVID-19 while in quarantine, New Zealand Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said. The Pacific nation has almost eliminated local transmission of the virus, but regularly records small numbers of new cases in returned travelers. The fishing cluster pushed the daily tally of new infections to 25,
From monitoring vital signs to filtering filthy air and even translating speech into other languages, the COVID-19-fueled boom in mask-wearing has spawned an unusual range of high-tech face coverings. As masks become the norm worldwide, tech companies and researchers are rolling out weird and wonderful models to guard against infection and cash in on a growing trend. One of the wackiest comes from Japan, where start-up Donut Robotics has created a face covering that helps users adhere to social distancing and also acts as a translator. The “C-Face” mask works by transmitting a wearer’s speech to a smartphone via an app, and allows
JAPAN Deer-edible bags invented The deer that roam Nara no longer face discomfort — or far worse — after local firms developed a safe alternative to the plastic packaging discarded by tourists that often ended up in the animals’ stomachs. Last year, several of the 1,300 deer that wander around the ancient capital’s central park were found dead after swallowing plastic bags and food wrappers. Firms collaborated to develop bags that pass safely through the animals’ complex digestive system. The bags are made with recycled pulp from milk cartons and rice bran, one of the main ingredients of the shika senbei savory