Rabin Says Palestinians in Jerusalem Can Vote in Elections in Territories

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has agreed to allow Palestinians living in eastern Jerusalem to vote, but not run, in proposed elections for a self-governing authority in the administered territories.

Rabin, who made the comment in the first interview ever given by an Israeli prime minister to a local Palestinian newspaper, also said Israel would allow members of the U.S. Congress to monitor the elections.

Those positions are a departure from the policy of the previous Likud government, which opposed any involvement of Palestinians from eastern Jerusalem in the peace process and objected to the idea of international supervision of elections in the territories.

Rabin’s statements, published Thursday in the eastern Jerusalem paper A1 Quds, prompted mixed reactions.

The editor of A1 Quds praised the Israeli leader’s remarks, but complained that he did not go far enough to satisfy Palestinian demands on human rights.

But Knesset members of the opposition Likud party blasted Rabin for going too far in his comments. They claimed his remarks had opened the door to the redivision of Jerusalem and the possibility of supervision of the elections by the United Nations.

Likud Knesset Member Eliyahu Ben-Elissar termed the remarks another Israeli concession to the Arabs that runs counter to the guidelines established before the October 1991 conference in Madrid that launched the current peace process.

A MESSAGE FROM ARAFAT?

But the Prime Minister’s Office took pains to clarify that Rabin said only that the United States could monitor, not supervise, the elections. The office also insisted that allowing eastern Jerusalem residents to vote but not stand for election would not affect the city’s unity.

Meanwhile, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks, Hanan Ashrawi, said Wednesday there was no danger of a Palestinian boycott at the next round of talks, scheduled to begin in Washington next week.

And Nimrod Novik, a close associate of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, was in Cairo, where it was reported he had a meeting Wednesday with Osama el-Baz, foreign affairs adviser to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

El-Baz reportedly had met the same day with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.

A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Novik’s visit to Cairo was strictly a business trip and had no political implications.

There was speculation in the press, however, that Novik exchanged a message with Arafat at Peres’ request, using el-Baz as the go-between.

There has also been speculation that Peres and his Syrian counterpart will meet next week at the U.N. human rights conference in Vienna. But the Israeli foreign minister said Tuesday that such a meeting was not likely.

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