Israel Should Negotiate with PLO or Pull out of Talks, Says Laborite

Labor Party Knesset member Yael Dayan has called on the Israeli government to either negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization or pull out of the peace talks entirely.

“The Palestinians have an authoritative leadership,” Dayan told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday. “We should talk to it — or stop talking altogether.”

Her proposal was the boldest statement made yet by a member of the dovish faction of the Labor Party that favors an overture to PLO leader Yasir Arafat.

Dayan said there was “nothing holy” about the decision to exclude the PLO from the current peace process begun in Madrid 13 months ago, since Israel’s conditions for joining the talks were made by a Likud prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, “who wanted neither the Madrid conference nor indeed the Camp David agreement itself.”

Dayan, whose father, Moshe Dayan, and grandfather, Shmuel Dayan, also served in the Knesset, said attempts to nurture “a local Palestinian leadership, divorced from the leadership outside, are doomed to failure.”

The killing of three Israeli army reservists in the Gaza Strip earlier this week cast its shadow on the deliberations of the Knesset panel, where another prominent Labor dove, Haggai Merom, said “drastic action” might be needed in the face of a “feeling of chaos.”

He said Israel should perhaps consider two courses of action: negotiating now on the permanent status of the administered territories, rather than continuing talks on an interim settlement, or withdrawing unilaterally from the Gaza Strip.

Predictably, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who is acting prime minister while Yitzhak Rabin is in Europe, opposed the proposals put forward by both Dayan and Merom.

To pull out of Gaza unilaterally, he said, might turn the area into “another Lebanon” and pave the way for a takeover by the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement.

From the opposite side of the political spectrum, Likud Knesset member Eliahu Ben-Elissar called on the government to enlist Ariel Sharon into the army reserves and give him an opportunity to bring order to Gaza.

Sharon, a general who as defense minister led Israel’s 1982 incursion into Lebanon, has claimed for years that he could bring order to the territories if given the chance, and he reiterated the claim during the committee discussion Tuesday.

Labor hawk Avigdor Kahalani asserted baldly that the Israel Defence Force has “lost control of the territories.”

“Even Jerusalem is burning,” he said, referring to a current increase in the torching of cars in the city. Kahalani’s proposal was to step up new settlement-building in the Jordan Valley, but this, too, was rejected by Peres.

Peres made a point of referring to the status of Arab residents in the eastern part of Jerusalem, which Israel does not consider disputed territory.

He said the present government has not yet formulated a position on whether Arab residents of East Jerusalem will be enabled to participate in any future election for an autonomous Palestinian body in the territories.

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