JERUSALEM (Jul. 19)
The first crisis of Yitzhak Rabin’s new tenure as prime minister was resolved Friday in a compromise that seemed to satisfy most Israelis and Palestinians.
Six Palestinians agreed to a three-year voluntary exile in Jordan, enabling the Israel Defense Force to lift its three-day siege of A-Najah University in Nablus.
The siege began July 14, when IDF forces learned that between nine and 19 armed Palestinians, who were sought for violent activities, had infiltrated the campus, where student body elections were being held. The army demanded all students leaving the campus submit to searches. The students refused, and the siege ensued.
It was an embarrassment for Rabin, who publicly questioned why the army did not take action before the suspects had reached the campus.
On the Palestinian side, Faisal Husseini oversaw the negotiations, though he did not directly conduct them. According to some reports, Husseini differed with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, who urged that students maintain a hard line and not capitulate. Arafat reportedly spoke to the students in a call that was broadcast through the school’s public address system.
But American appeals for a peaceful resolution were heeded, in part because both sides feared the consequences if the army went in shooting, and in part because both Rabin and Husseini will be meeting this week with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker to discuss the peace process.
Under the terms agreed upon by the Palestinians and the Israelis, six of the wanted Palestinians agreed to leave the West Bank for Jordan for a three-year period. If they do not engage in terrorist activities, they will be allowed to return.