JERUSALEM (Mar. 30)
Labor members of the Knesset, including Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, are attempting to put together a peace front with representative Palestinians from the West Bank.
Peres met last Thursday with Hanna Seniora, editor of the East Jerusalem Arabic daily Al-Fajr, and Fayez Abu-Rahme. Both have been mentioned as possible members of a Palestinian-Jordanian delegation in peace talks with Israel.
Seniora, who makes no secret of his sympathy for the Palestine Liberation Organization, was one of four Palestinians who attended a meeting with Labor MKs Abba Eban and Ora Namir last Wednesday at the King David Hotel. The others were Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem and two Nablus businessmen, Said Kanan and Bassel Kanan. The six signed a joint statement calling for peace talks within the framework of an international conference which would include “legitimate representatives of Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian people.” The statement said, “a peace settlement must contain elements meeting the legitimate security rights of Israel and the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.”
SOME STAYED AWAY FROM THE MEETING
The meeting was smaller than anticipated. Several key figures from the administered territories did not attend because they refused to sign a statement which made no mention of the PLO. Seniora indicated he was taking a personal risk by signing.
“I know there are dangers involved, but I am willing to go ahead because I value peace much more than war,” he told reporters.
Labor MK Haim Ramon, an outspoken dove, said he stayed away because a meeting without PLO representation was flawed to begin with. According to Ramon, the basic weakness of all recent meetings between Israeli policymakers and leaders of the Palestinian community lies in their divergent attitudes toward the PLO.
“Whereas the Palestinians by and large stick to the PLO as the ‘sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people,’ Israeli leaders want no contacts whatever with the PLO lobby in the territories,” Ramon said.
But Eban was optimistic. “We have decided to step up the pace of dialogue,” he said. He warned, however, that it was an illusion to believe the continuing impasse does no harm.