TEL AVIV (Nov. 15)
Israel dismissed with scorn Yasir Arafat’s proclamation of an independent Palestinian state at the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers.
Swift and strong reaction to the declaration crossed party lines. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Likud called the Algiers declaration just another stage “in the terrorist war against the existence of Israel and its independence” being waged by the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, head of the Labor Party, said it was just another PLO effort to avoid the need for clear, decisive decisions.
Although the PNC delegates accepted U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 which implicitly recognizes Israel, it was done with “crooked additions” which cannot be ignored, Peres said.
An official statement by the Foreign Ministry issued at noon Tuesday said the PLO has shown again it cannot or will not accept reality.
The statement dismissed the reference to Resolution 242 as “double talk aimed at obscuring the PLO’s continued recourse to violence, terrorism and extremism.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Alon Liel called the declaration a unilateral step that was no substitute for negotiations.
“We say in our statement that we believe that the decisions of the PNC are not contributing to peace in the area,” he said.
Liel acknowledged that the reference to 242 was “one new thing,” but “the way they mention it, with conditions, is not considered by us a recognition of Israel,” he said.
PUBLIC RELATIONS GIMMICK
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations and now a Likud Knesset member-elect, called Arafat’s statement “a mere public relations gimmick devoid of value.”
According to Minister of Commerce and Industry Ariel Sharon, a Likud hard-liner who may be Israel’s next defense minister, the PNC declaration was a very dangerous development against which he had warned for a long time.
The only Israeli politicians without totally negative reactions were Arieh Eliav of Labor’s new Knesset faction and Yossi Sarid of the Citizens Rights Movement.
Both thought the PNC’s “carefully worded statement” was worthy of consideration.
Hanna Siniora, a prominent Palestinian journalist who edits the East Jerusalem Arabic daily Al-Fajr, called Arafat’s announcement proof of the PLO’s readiness to recognize Israel.
“It is recognition and a triumph for the voice of moderation in the Palestinian camp. It sees reality. It understands the existence of the state of Israel and it wants to make peace with it,” Siniora told Israel Radio Tuesday.
Recognition of the new Palestinian state was immediately forthcoming, first from Algiers and then followed within hours by Malaysia, Singapore, North and South Yemen, Kuwait, Tunisia, Iraq, Madagascar, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
A declaration of Palestinian statehood in Algiers was anticipated, so it was no surprise when Arafat mounted the podium at 2 a.m. Tuesday and proclaimed:
“The Palestine National Council announces in the name of God, in the name of the people, of the Arab Palestinian people, the establishment of the state of Palestine in our Palestinian nation, with holy Jerusalem as its capital.”
He did not indicate the boundaries of such a state but referred to the U.N. General Assembly resolution of Nov. 29, 1947, which called for the partition of Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.
On Monday night, the PNC endorsed Resolution 242 by a vote of 253-46, with 10 abstentions. That resolution was adopted by the Security Council in 1967 as the basis for Arab-Israeli negotiations.