TEL AVIV (Jul. 7)
Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat says he is ready for direct talks with Israel on the basis of trading territory for peace — but only under certain conditions.
He would insist on recognition of the Palestinian people’s right to statehood guaranteed by the United States, the Soviet Union and international agencies.
Arafat staked out his position in reply to 12 questions submitted to him by Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, who attended a news conference with the PLO leader in Tunis last week.
The answers were faxed to Israeli newspapers from Tunis over the weekend on sheets imprinted with the letterhead “President’s Office, Palestine Liberation Organization, State of Palestine.”
While Nathan was upbeat about the replies, Israeli Arab affairs experts saw little new in them.
The PLO leader stated he was ready for talks without preconditions and then proceeded to list seven conditions.
He said he is willing to talk peace with Israel if it agrees to relinquish territory, recognize the right of Palestinians to independence, release all prisoners, reopen all universities in the administered territories, adopt a more liberal policy of family reunification, annul laws forbidding private meetings between Israelis and Palestinians, and stop building Jewish settlements in the “occupied territories.”
Arafat implied he would agree to a demilitarized Palestinian state in the context of regional demilitarization. He did not rule out the possibility of “Israelis living in the Palestinian state.”
Nathan, in Paris on Sunday, told interviewers by telephone that he would return to Israel “within a day or so,” predicting that he would face a “witch hunt” for his meetings with Arafat.
He could be required to serve a three-month suspended sentence he received for one of his earlier meetings with the PLO leader, and he faces trail in September for another meeting with Arafat.
Nathan served four months in prison last year for violating the law banning Israelis from contacts with the PLO.
Israeli police officials said he would be questioned about his latest meeting when he gets home. Before that, Nathan says he will visit “one or more Arab countries.”