Rabin Rules out Separate Talks with Local Palestinian Leaders

Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin on Tuesday ruled out separate peace talks with the local Palestinian leadership from the administered territories.

In a briefing to the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Rabin said negotiations on the future status of the territories could only be conducted with a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation.

Talks with local Palestinian leaders, the defense minister said, could cover a variety of subjects, but not the overall issue of peace. He also indicated that he would not rule out future talks with Arab residents now under administrative detention.

Rabin’s remarks were seen as an attempt to clarify statements he has made since Jordan’s King Hussein announced he was severing ties to the West Bank.

Some of his statements have been construed as encouraging the development of a local Palestinian leadership that would serve as an alternative to both the Palestine Liberation Organization and Jordan.

Since Hussein’s July 31 announcement that he was cutting all ties to the West Bank, and subsequent Jordanian actions putting that policy into effect, Israel has been confronted with the question of with whom it will negotiate.

Recently, major figures in the PLO have expressed a willingness to negotiate with Israel on the basis of the United Nations partition agreement of 1947, though PLO chief Yasir Arafat has not made such a statement.

Israeli leaders, including Rabin, have been reticent to endorse the possibility of discussions with the PLO, even if it renounces terrorism and recognizes Israel’s right to exist moves its shows no sign of making. Israel has a longstanding policy of not dealing with the PLO, which it considers a terrorist organization.

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