JERUSALEM (Mar. 5)
Palestinian leaders stated unequivocally Monday that only the Palestine Liberation Organization could represent them in proposed peace talks with Israel.
A petition signed by 34 prominent Palestinian nationalists from the West Bank and Gaza Strip said it would be up to the PLO to appoint and announce the members of a Palestinian delegation to meet with the Israelis for preliminary talks in Cairo.
The delegation must consist of Palestinians from abroad and from East Jerusalem, as well as from the administered territories, the petition said.
It appears to have raised yet another obstacle to the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue the United States and Egypt have been trying for months to arrange.
Because Israel will have nothing whatever to do with the PLO directly or indirectly, the Americans and Egyptians had hoped to disguise to the point of invisibility the PLO’s involvement in the scenario.
The Palestinian delegation would be selected by Egypt, with Israel’s approval, and announced by Egypt. Israel would be expected to go along without too much scrutiny.
But Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has not yet indicated whether he is prepared to negotiate with a delegation that includes residents of East Jerusalem or Palestinians from abroad, such as those deported by Israel.
By refusing, Shamir would risk a confrontation with Washington and dissolution of his coalition government with the Labor Party, which is more flexible on the issues.