TEL AVIV (Jan. 21)
Two days after the Knesset lifted a ban on contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Israel Television broadcast an interview with Yasir Arafat in which he called for direct meetings between Israel and the PLO.
The phone interview was arranged by the Israeli peace activist Abie Nathan, who called Israel’s state-run television from Tunis and then put the PLO chief on the line. The taped statement was then aired later during a news program.
“I call once again on the prime minister, Mr. (Yitzhak) Rabin, and his government to agree to a meeting of the courageous, in order to establish a courageous peace,” Arafat said.
Nathan kept a promise by flying to Tunis and becoming the first Israeli to meet legally with Arafat under the new law. Last fall, Nathan said in an interview he would meet with Arafat and have coffee with him as soon as the law against meeting with the PLO was nullified.
Nathan attended the historic vote in the Knesset on Tuesday night in which the longstanding ban was repealed. He left Israel a few hours later to meet the PLO chairman at his headquarters in Tunis.
As he left Israel Nathan said he would ask Arafat to make a reciprocal gesture. But he declined in telephone interviews he gave from Tunis after his meeting to give details of the talk.
Nathan has twice been jailed for meeting Arafat under the old law forbidding contact with the PLO.
Other Israelis, including some dovish Knesset members, have reportedly arranged a meeting with PLO officials to take place shortly in Cairo.