UNITED NATIONS (May. 21)
A Security Council session to discuss the inflamed situation in Israel’s administered territories has been set for Tuesday, and the Palestine Liberation Organization is pressing for its chairman, Yasir Arafat, to participate in the debate.
Security Council consultations were held Monday morning and were scheduled to continue Tuesday and culminate in a formal meeting, which was requested by the 22 Arab nations belonging to the international body.
The request was made in the aftermath of a shooting attack Sunday on a group of Palestinian laborers in the Israeli town of Rishon le-Zion. The incident, perpetrated by a mentally disturbed Jewish man in army uniform, left seven dead and triggered massive rioting in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Soon after the attack, the PLO called for international intervention.
At the United Nations, PLO representative Zehdi Terzi sent an informal signal Monday morning to the U.S. Mission indicating that the PLO would like Arafat admitted to the Security Council debate, according to sources here.
But there were no reports Monday of Arafat having made a formal request for a visa to the U.S. State Department.
An Israeli spokesman said that his government was already lobbying the U.S. administration to signal to the PLO that a formal visa request would be rejected.
“Instead of calming things down,” Arafat’s entrance to the United States “would escalate the situation” in the territories, said the spokesman, Yuval Rotem.
If Arafat is denied a U.S. visa, action may be taken at Tuesday’s meeting to move the meeting to United Nations’ European headquarters in Geneva, PLO representatives indicated.
In the fall of 1988, a U.N. General Assembly meeting was moved to Geneva after Arafat was denied entry to the United States.
U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar released a statement Monday saying that he “views with grave concern” the Rishon le-Zion attack; the resulting unrest in the territories, which led to the deaths of seven more Palestinians; and the reprisal attack Monday on eight French tourists by a Palestinian in Jordan.
The attack in Jordan, he said, “cannot be viewed in isolation” from Sunday’s events.
Perez de Cuellar said that the Palestinian deaths Sunday “highlight the vulnerability repeatedly expressed by those living under Israeli occupation.”
He urged that “appropriate steps be taken to enable the Palestinians to feel secure” and that negotiations among all parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict be launched as soon as possible.
The stalled peace process, the secretary-general said, “has deepened the frustration of the peoples of the Middle East, contributing to an escalation of tension throughout the area.”
Rotem at the Israeli Mission said his government was “encouraging Jewish organizations to express their views” against an Arafat visit.
Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the conference has “been in touch with officials in Washington” about the PLO request, which it is monitoring “very closely.”
Hoenlein spoke from Little Rock, Ark., where he was addressing a synagogue group.
While he and other Jewish leaders would not comment directly on an Arafat visa request before it was formally made, Hoenlein noted that in the past, many American Jewish groups have urged the Bush administration not to admit Arafat to the United States.
He said the decision about whether to admit Arafat would likely be made at the highest levels of the administration, by President Bush himself or by Secretary of State James Baker.