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Rabin Modifies Preconditions for Elections in Territories

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Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin has modified a key condition of his offer of local elections to the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Speaking on Army Radio and at a meeting of the Labor Party Knesset faction, Rabin said he was ready to work toward elections in the territories even if the Arabs do not agree immediately to halt anti-Israel hostilities.

But once both sides agree to hold elections, the Palestinian uprising would have to be suspended to ensure peaceful balloting, the defense minister said.

Rabin had insisted earlier that the intifada must be halted for three to six months before elections could be considered.

“I am willing to talk now, to reach agreement on the process, ” Rabin said.

“When there’s agreement on the process, then a calm period will have to begin, because in my mind, if you want free elections, they cannot take place in an atmosphere of violence.”

If elections are held in the territories, they would be the first there since 1976.

Rabin proposes that the Palestinians elect local leaders with whom Israel would then negotiate.

His idea was rejected outright by the Palestine Liberation Organization and greeted with skepticism by fellow ministers.

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