Arens Intends to Begin Dialogue with Local Palestinian Leaders

Defense Minister Moshe Arens is planning to begin a dialogue with Palestinian leaders in the administered territories.

Arens would consent to talk with representatives of all political camps, including those identifying with the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Moslem fundamentalist Hamas movement, according to his aides.

But his aim, they say, is to start a process that would lead to the creation of an alternative Palestinian leadership to the PLO.

Creation of an alternative leadership has been a goal of several Likud defense ministers, beginning with Ezer Weizman in the late 1970s.

Weizman at the time encouraged the operation of the National Guidance Committee, a local force that did not blindly follow the PLO. But the committee turned out to be even more extreme than the PLO in some instances, and Israel eventually outlawed the organization.

The present Palestinian leadership identifies totally with the PLO or with even more extreme organizations. Former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin played down the importance of talks with leaders such as Faisal Husseini of East Jerusalem, because those leaders used to refer him time and again to the PLO.

Arens has the opportunity to weigh his policy in the territories in an atmosphere of relative quiet. Unrest in the territories has decreased in the very short time since the new government was sworn in. The lull follows a rash of violence that broke out after the May 20 murder of seven Arab laborers near the Israeli town of Rishon le-Zion.

On Wednesday, Arabs in the territories held a general strike to commemorate the 30th day following the massacre. The strike was observed throughout the territories and East Jerusalem.

The Association of Civil Rights announced Wednesday that despite improvements in the last year, violation of civil rights in the territories has continued.

Presenting its annual report to journalists in Jerusalem, the association warned that ongoing violation of civil rights had a detrimental effect inside Israel.

One of the association’s major achievements in the past year has been the liberalization of family reunion regulations, as a result of a please the association made to the courts.

Other achievements that the association claimed include the bringing to trial of Col. Yehuda Meir, charged with misconduct toward Arab detainees; the closing down of detention facilities with poor living conditions; and improvement in the efficiency of military trials.

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