European Body to Vote Again on Trade Accords with Israel

The Parliament of Europe is scheduled to take a crucial vote Wednesday that Israel hopes will reverse the severe rebuff it suffered at the hands of that body last March.

The agenda item is ratification of three economic accords Israel signed with the 12-nation European Community in 1987. The accords would adjust Israel’s trade relations with the European Community in light of its admission of Spain and Portugal.

Normally, the accords would have been endorsed as a matter of routine by the parliament, which is the European Community’s legislative body.

But last March, sentiment was running high against Israel’s handling of the Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It proved impossible to muster the 260 votes required to endorse the accords in the normally pro-Israel legislative body.

Prospects for a positive vote this Wednesday seem better, but the outcome remains uncertain, according to parliamentary sources here and in Strasbourg, France, where the legislative body is based.

One of the issues is an agreement by Israel to allow Palestinians in the territories to export their citrus and other produce directly to the European Common Market, under their own label.

Until now, exports from the West Bank and Gaza Strip were not designated in this way and had to be shipped through the Israeli government’s export agencies.

CHEVSSON’S WORD IS KEY

Israel was accused last March of not honoring its agreement. Parliamentary sources said the vote this week will depend on a statement by Claude Cheysson of France, the European Community’s commissioner in charge of Mediterranean policy.

According to commission sources, Cheysson will tell the deputies that Israel has given assurances not to put obstacles in the way of Palestinian exports.

Nevertheless, the largest political factions in the parliament — the Socialists, Christian Democrats and Liberals — reportedly will vote for the accords.

Rudi Arndt of West Germany, leader of the 165-member Socialist faction, has said as much. He indicated his deputies will support ratification to send a “clear signal” that the Socialists are fair.

They not only are ready for dialogue with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, but they can also “make concrete gestures in favor of Israel,” he said.

Uncertain is the vote of the European Democratic Group, made up mainly of British Conservatives, which forms the rejectionist bloc along with the Communists and Greens.

They point to the increased number of fatalities among Palestinians as unrest continues in the Israeli-administered territories.

But there is another factor that could work in Israel’s favor. The parliament is scheduled to vote on ratification of economic accords between the European Community and Syria immediately after the vote on Israel.

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