Israeli Cabinet to Deliberate over PLO Recognition Agreement

Israel’s Cabinet is expected to meet within the next few days to consider the draft of a mutual recognition pact with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

According to reports here, the Cabinet could approve the draft at its regular session Sunday or perhaps even at a special meeting Friday.

Uri Savir, director-general of the Foreign Ministry, has been meeting with PLO officials in Brussels to work out the final language of a pact.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres arrived in Brussels on Thursday after a short stopover in Athens. Israel TV reported that Peres would join the secret talks there.

Both Peres and Savir were expected to return to Israel on Thursday night.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin has meanwhile been touring the country to drum up support for both the recognition pact with the PLO and the agreement to initiate Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho.

Rabin’s task was not made any easier by PLO leader Yasir Arafat, who was quoted in Morocco on Thursday as saying that the Palestinian flag will soon be flying over Jerusalem.

“The Palestinian state is within our grasp,” the PLO chairman was quoted as saying at the Casablanca airport. “Soon the Palestinian flag will fly on the walls, the minarets and the cathedrals of Jerusalem.”

Arafat no doubt employs such comments to win the backing of dissidents within the PLO and in the Arab world at large. But so far, his comments have not disrupted the optimistic appraisals voiced here about the proposed Israeli-PLO pact.

RABIN-ARAFAT SUMMIT IN EGYPT?

Meanwhile, the semi-official Egyptian paper Al-Ahram reported Thursday that preparations were being made in Egypt for a summit between Rabin and Arafat.

According to the paper, the two would meet this month — before the agreement on Palestinian self-rule is signed in Washington.

There was no immediate Israeli reaction to the Egyptian report.

The Knesset is scheduled to convene next week in a special session to vote on the declaration of principles on Palestinian self-rule.

As the Knesset vote draws closer, questions have been raised regarding the impact the proposed agreement with the Palestinians will have on Israel’s security.

Appearing before the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Amnon Shahak, the Israel Defense Force deputy chief of staff, said that the withdrawal of Israeli forces called for under the agreement would severely hamper Israel’s counterterrorist program.

He said the army had not been consulted during the secret negotiations on the agreement between Foreign Minister Peres and PLO officials.

Shahak said that even the IDF chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, had not seen the draft agreement until Monday.

Shahak said that it was not yet known to what extent the IDF would be able to carry out “hot pursuits” after suspected terrorists into areas covered by the self-rule agreement.

Also appearing before the committee was reserve Maj. Gen. Shlomo Gazit, a former chief of intelligence. He questioned the wisdom of a military withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and Jericho within four months after the accord is signed.

Gazit said the PLO would need a far longer period in which to establish control in Gaza.

The Israeli daily Yediot Achronot reported Thursday that the Shin Bet domestic security service and the PLO, one-time enemies, are planning to organize a joint committee to study ways of dealing with militants in Gaza after an Israeli army withdrawal from the region.

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