JERUSALEM (Oct. 22)
A 14-member Palestinian negotiating team, heavily laden with professionals and academics from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, was made public Tuesday at a news conference at the National Hotel here.
They will go to Madrid for the opening of the Middle East peace conference Oct. 30, and four days later will face the Israeli team across the negotiating table, if all goes according to schedule.
The list, which had been unofficial until now, includes several men who affirm allegiance to Yasir Arafat’s Al Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But as none is a known member of the PLO, the United States was able to affirm to Israel that the PLO would not officially be a party to the peace talks.
The news conference was called by Faisal Husseini, the Palestinian activist who heads a six-member advisory panel that will accompany the negotiating team to Madrid but not participate directly in the negotiations.
Husseini, a dedicated nationalist who has had frequent meetings with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker in recent months, is an open supporter of the PLO but not identified as a member.
The chairman of the negotiating team is Dr. Haider Abdel-Shafi, a 72-year-old physician from the Gaza Strip. He chairs the Red Crescent Society there, the Moslem equivalent of the Red Cross, which is headed by Yasir Arafat’s brother, Dr. Fathi Arafat, also a physician.
MANY ACADEMICS ON THE LIST
Abdel-Shafi, considered a moderate, was one of the founders of the PLO in 1964 and is still a staunch supporter.
Other members of the team are Samir Abdullah, who is associated with the Communist Party in the territories; Sami Kilani, a writer and lecturer at An-Najah University in Nablus who supports Fatah; and Ghasan Khatib, a professor of economics from Ramallah who is a Communist.
The member whose name may be the most familiar abroad is Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem, a Palestinian Christian.
Also on the list are Mustafa Natshe, the former mayor of Hebron who was deposed by the Israeli authorities because of his associations with Fatah; Nabil Ja’abari, chairman of the board of Hebron University; Dr. Nabil Kasis, a Christian who lectures in physics at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank; and Professor Abdul Rahman Hamad, who comes from the Gaza Strip and lectures in engineering at Bir Zeit.
Others are Dr. Zakaria al-Agha, a Gaza physician associated with Fatah who also has met with Baker; Mamdouh Aker, a physician from Nablus; Freh Abu-Mdein, chairman of the Gaza Bar Association; Dr. Saeb Erekat, a political science lecturer from Jericho; and Sameh Cana’an, who served 12 years in jail for terrorist activities and was deported but allowed to return to Nablus.
He is the son of a Jewish woman who converted to Islam in the 1940s.