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Baker’s Talks with Palestinians Create a Rift in the Territories

U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s talks with a group of Palestinian leaders here Sunday has opened a deep rift in the Palestinian political community on the issue of peace talks with Israel.

The rejectionist camp has mounted a bitter personal campaign against Faisal Husseini, the East Jerusalem activist whom it considers too prone to compromise.

Husseini headed the group that met with Baker, which apparently agreed to the U.S. proposal for a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation to negotiate directly with Israel. Jordan’s King Hussein had given his assent to Baker earlier.

But the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Women’s League in the administered territories denounced the plan at a news conference here Monday.

They called it “an American conspiracy to push the Palestine Liberation Organization out of negotiations and fill their places with local representatives.”

Speakers for the rejectionist front warned that if the fate of the Palestinian people is determined by a joint delegation, a Palestinian autonomy plan dictated by Israel will result.

They demanded instead negotiations that would lead to an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The rejectionists said they were preparing a petition against the Baker initiative among supporters of Al Fatah, the largest and strongest PLO faction.

The Popular Front is said to have made death threats against Husseini. Leaflets have appeared in East Jerusalem opposing his talks with Baker.

Husseini insisted, however, that he did not get the impression from Baker that the United States had abandoned the idea of Palestinian representation at a regional peace conference.

Nor are the Palestinians dropping their demand to include representatives from East Jerusalem in their delegation, Husseini said. Israel, for its part, refuses to negotiate with East Jerusalem Arabs on grounds that it would compromise Israel’s claim to sovereignty over the united city.

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