JERUSALEM (Aug. 26)
In yet another challenge to Israel’s law banning contacts with representatives of terrorist organizations, two dovish Knesset members met last weekend in The Hague with Nabil Sha’ath, political adviser to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.
The Knesset members were Yael Dayan of Labor and Naomi Chazan of the left-wing Meretz bloc.
Although meetings between PLO officials and Israeli peace activists have become routine, it was the first time that two key members of the governing coalition met openly with a senior PLO official.
As expected, two Knesset members of the opposition Likud bloc, Limor Livnat and Michael Eitan, rushed to demand that Dayan’s and Chazan’s parliamentary immunity be waved, so that they could be prosecuted for violating the law.
Dayan said she was well aware she had violated the law and that she was willing to bear the legal consequences.
But the law may be changed before legal steps against the two Knesset members can be taken. The Justice Ministry is preparing a bill that would amend the law to prohibit only those meetings intended to undermine state security.
In the past, peace activists such as Abie Nathan served jail sentences for similar meetings with PLO officials.
Sha’ath is considered one of Arafat’s closest advisers and is one of the most senior officials in the PLO, chairing its political committee.
Dayan had met with him in the past, but it was the first time she had done so as a Knesset member of one of the ruling parties in Israel.
Dayan said that the meeting had taken place at the initiative of Sha’ath, who invited both Knesset members to meet him in Holland, where he was en route to the Washington peace talks.
She said both she and Chazan felt the hours-long talk was very satisfactory and that there were no substantial differences, only a technical gap, “which required a lot of patience and concessions by both parties.”
“If Nabil Sha’ath represents the PLO, there is a good chance that we shall overcome the obstacles” to a peace settlement, she said.