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Sarid in Trouble for Saying He is Willing to Meet with Arafat

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Yossi Sarid, the doveish Labor Party member of Knesset, has raised a new storm within the party by declaring this weekend that he is willing to meet Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat if such a meeting would further the cause of peace.

Sarid’s statement was in response to a senior PLO representative, Issam Sartawi, who told the newspaper Le Monde in Paris last week that the PLO should continue its talks with What he termed the “Israeli peace camp.” Sartawi, the PLO’s representative in Vienna, held secret talks with Sheli leaders Meir Payil and Arye Eliav in autumn 1976 in Paris. He told Le Monde that he held the talks at the request of the PLO leadership and interrupted them after he was disowned by his organization.

Hawkish members of the Labor Party have proposed Sarid’s ouster from the party, or at least for his removal from the Labor Party’s “Reaction and Response” group which serves as official spokesmen to counter Likud propaganda. Party chairman Shimon Peres noted that Sarid’s statement was not in accordance with the party platform which bars any contacts with the PLO. But he did not propose any action against Sarid.

Peres dismissed Sartawi’s proposal, saying similar doveish statements had been made by him in the past. They mainly served to dispel Western criticism of the PLO for being too intransigent, he noted, and previous peaceful declarations had always immediately been disavowed by the mainline PLO leadership.

Sarid’s offer to meet Arafat if it could further the cause of peace was welcomed by Mapam spokesmen. The leftwing group with the Labor Alignment has recently expressed restiveness with the hard-line attitudes recently shown by many Labor Party leaders.

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