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Israeli Peace Activist Abie Nathan Convicted for Meetings with Arafat

Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, who has held several meetings with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, was found guilty Wednesday of breaking an Israeli law that prohibits contacts with terrorists.

The Ramla Magistrates Court is to sentence Nathan on Tuesday. The maximum penalty for breaking the law against consorting with representatives of terrorist organizations is three years.

The state prosecution asked for the maximum sentence on the grounds that Nathan is a prominent and popular personality whose sentence should be seen as a deterrent against others who would do the same.

Nathan, who owns and operates the floating Voice of Peace radio ship off the Tel Aviv shore, has not expressed regret for his activities, the prosecution emphasized.

In fact, in an impassioned speech to the court, Nathan said he did not regret his four meetings with Arafat to date. His most recent meeting with the PLO chairman took place in Tunis a year ago.

Nathan said he had met with Arafat with the full knowledge that what he was doing was against the law, which he called “stupid.” What is of paramount importance, he said, is the need to get an Israel-Palestinian dialogue going.

Nathan said that to achieve peace one should talk to one’s enemies. He said he had not met Arafat to negotiate with him but to tell him directly of Israel’s desire for peace and its thoughts on how to achieve peace.

The peace advocate and global do-gooder declined any deal under which he might serve a sentence doing “communal work” and requested a speedy end to the trial “so that I can continue my peace efforts as soon as possible.”

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