EXCERPTS FROM NBC ‘TODAY’ INTERVIEW WITH ISRAELI FOREIGN MINISTER SHIMON PERES

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 2, 1994

Q: Yesterday there was so much enthusiasm, especially on the side of the Palestinian representatives, that this agreement might have been ready to be signed this weekend. Today there seems to be a dampening of that enthusiasm. Can you tell me why?

FOR. MIN. PERES: Well, actually, I do believe we are going to sign. I cannot say it will take a week or two weeks or three weeks, because we have the problem of drafting and we have some remaining marginal issues. But marginal issues, too, may become all of a sudden central problems. But my estimate is that we are very near concluding the agreement.

Q: There is an article in the New York Times this morning that says it is possible that you and Mr. Arafat reached a basic deal in Switzerland over the weekend and that Prime Minister Rabin had second thoughts about that deal. Will you comment on that?

FOR. MIN. PERES: I don’t think this is the case. You know, we were negotiating two papers, one which is called the Davos paper about the principal issues concerning the Gaza Strip, which is a two-page document; and then another one, which is an eight-page document concerning the passages and the Jericho situation. We finished to write down the eight pages around 2:30 in the morning. They have had to leave it around 3:30 in the morning. So we didn’t have really much time to consult with home, with Mr. Rabin and other people. But I do believe that we are very near a conclusion.

Q: Let’s talk about some of the key issues. The border crossings between the occupied territories and Jordan and Egypt; who will now control those borders?

FOR. MIN. PERES: Basically, Israel will remain responsible and carry the total responsibility for the passages. But there will be a Palestinian wing through which the Palestinians will go through. The problem in one sentence is that the border between Jordan and the West Bank is at the same time the border between Jordan and Israel. So whoever crosses the border can go freely to every place in Israel. And for that reason we want to make sure that terrorists or strange people of any sort will not come in without being checked.

Q: The size of the Jericho territory itself has been at issue. The Palestinians had hoped that the size of that territory would extend westward toward Jerusalem, eastward toward the Jordan border and down south toward the Dead Sea. Can you tell me now about the size of that territory?

FOR. MIN. PERES: The size of the territory remains unchanged, but we have added some other compensations or proposals. First of all, the Palestinians will have a right to build a hotel of their own nearby the Dead Sea. Then there is a place which is holy to them called Nebi Musa, and this will be under their religious auspices. They will have an approach to the Jordan River for baptism. I’m referring to the Christian Palestinians. And then Mr. Arafat suggested that we should make the final decision on the size of Jericho and he will accept it.

Q: All right. Finally, the issue of security for Israelis living in Gaza; are they going to be happy with the possibility that their security will be handled by Palestinians?

FOR. MIN. PERES: No, it won’t be handled by the Palestinians. It will be handled by us. The army of Israel will remain totally responsible for the security of the settlements and any and every Israeli in the territories. And we made special arrangement so the lateral roads connecting the settlements with the main roads in Israel will be guaranteed to be controlled and inspected by the Israeli armed forces.