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Israeli Government Takes Step to Allowing Meetings with PLO

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The government this week took another step toward granting legitimacy to the Palestine Liberation Organization when it authorized three Knesset members to participate in an international symposium that will also be attended by PLO activists.

The Foreign Ministry gave the go-ahead to three coalition members of Knesset to take part in a U.N.-sponsored seminar on Middle East peace in Portugal next week.

Labor’s Avraham Burg and Nissim Zvilli and Meretz’s Naomi Chazan are due to chair symposium committee sessions attended by senior PLO officials, including Nabil Sha’ath, a key political adviser to PLO chief Yasir Arafat, and Yasser Abed Rabbo, a member of the PLO’s executive committee.

Approval came only two weeks after opposition members called for the lifting of parliamentary immunity from two Knesset members for meeting with Sha’ath in The Hague, Netherlands.

The request was withdrawn only after one of the members involved, Yael Dayan, promised a Knesset committee she would refrain from any further violation of the Israeli law banning meetings with PLO officials until it is amended.

The other member was Chazan, who made no such promise.

The government has announced it intends to lift the six-year ban on contacts between Israelis and the PLO and is now drafting an amendment to the 1986 law forbidding contact with terrorist organizations.

Foreign Ministry approval of the Portugal trip was in line with a recent decision to withdraw objections to participation in such events as no longer having much point, and in which Israel might gain a public relations advantage.

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