JERUSALEM (Jul. 20)
A news conference with members of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks burst into chaos Monday when an activist of the militant Kach movement tried to use his Uzi submachine gun to disrupt the event.
The Palestinians convened the news conference at the Hakawati theater in East Jerusalem to brief the media on their three-hour meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker. During the session, a group of five Kach activists entered the theater compound, carrying anti-Palestinian posters.
The Palestinians and the Kach activists were on the verge of fistfights when Kach activist Tiran Polak pulled out his gun. According to one report, Polak even tried to shoot, but the gun failed to fire.
A police force summoned to the scene arrested the five activists, followers of the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, who founded the anti-Arab Kach movement.
Hanan Ashrawi, spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation, said at the news conference that Baker spoke of how impressed he was with Israel’s present readiness to limit the settlements in the territories.
She, too, admitted that there is a change in the tone coming out of Jerusalem. But, she added, Palestinians still want to know what exactly Israel means when it refers to curtailing settlement activity in the territories.
Ashrawi said the Palestinians are not demanding a total settlement freeze before resuming the peace talks, although they continue to reject the distinction drawn by Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin between “political” and “security” settlements.
The Palestinians did not go into the details of the meeting with Baker, but said in general terms that they discussed the ways and means to speed up the peace process.
They told Baker the onus for jump-starting the peace process is on the Israeli government. Israel must show it is serious about peace, by such steps as releasing political prisoners and lifting censorship, they said.
Asked repeatedly what concessions the Palestinians are willing to make, Ashrawi said they had already made concessions by living under Israeli rule.
She said that if she were invited for a meeting with Rabin, she would accept the invitation, assuming that the meeting would help the peace process.