JERUSALEM (Jul. 25)
Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasir Arafat snubbed Knesset members Yael Dayan and Abdel Wahab Darawshe by canceling a weekend meeting in Tunis at the last moment.
Dayan, a Labor Party member who had traveled to Tunis with Darawshe of the Arab Democratic Party, voiced disappointment that the PLO leader decided to fly off to Yemen on his way to Southeast Asia.
Dayan’s accompaniment of Darawshe had been a secret, albeit not a surprise. Dayan met with the PLO chief in January, when the two posed for a photograph that sent shockwaves through Israel.
Dayan, whose meeting was dubbed private and not official, was nevertheless the first government figure to meet publicly with Arafat. That meeting took place shortly after an Israeli law banning contacts with the PLO was lifted by the Knesset.
This time, in Arafat’s absence, Darawshe and Dayan held weekend meetings with some of the PLO leader’s top lieutenants.
The two Knesset members were due back in Israel on Monday after a stop in Cairo.
Arafat’s behavior clearly embarrassed Dayan, daughter of the late Israeli military hero-turned-peacemaker, Moshe Dayan. She had kept her departure to Tunis a secret until the last moment.
In a separate but probably not coincidental move, a newly formed group of Labor Knesset members, numbering some key party figures among its members, issued a statement over the weekend “not rejecting informing talks with PLO-Tunis at this time.”
The group includes the chairmen of the two most powerful committees in the Knesset, Ori Orr of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and Gedalya Gal of the Finance Committee.
The statement explained that the group favors private contacts at this stage — which reportedly have been taking place — with a view to formal negotiations with the PLO at a later date, if the present contacts prove fruitful.
Orr himself dismissed calls from Likud Knesset members to banish Dayan from his committee because of her frequent trips to Tunis.
“Yael Dayan is no enemy of the country,” Orr remarked. But Still, he sharply criticized her for failing to turn up for committee tours of the front lines arranged by the army.