JERUSALEM (Sep. 8)
Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization continued this week to search for the right language that would clear the way for a mutual recognition pact.
Secret negotiations were reported under way in Paris this week involving the same top officials from Norway, Israel and the PLO who together worked out the tentative accord on limited Palestinian self-rule in the territories.
Among those present in Paris were the Norwegian Foreign Minister Johan Jorgen Holst; Uri Savir, director general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and his legal adviser, Yoel Zinger; and Ahmad Khoury, better known as Abu Alaa, chief of the PLO’s finance department.
Alaa had met with Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on Aug. 19 to conclude the self-rule agreement.
Israeli and PLO officials still expressed the hope Wednesday that a mutual recognition pact could be concluded by Sunday. This would clear the way for a formal signing of the self-rule accord in Washington on Monday.
Meanwhile, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat was reportedly encountering some difficulty in getting backing for the plan from the Executive Committee of the PLO.
After visiting Syria, Egypt and Oman earlier in the week and lining up at least qualified support for the self-rule agreement from those countries’ leaders, Arafat returned to PLO headquarters in Tunis on Wednesday to meet with the 18-member Executive Committee.
The proposed agreement calls for Palestinian self-rule in Gaza and Jericho as a prelude to the establishment of Palestinian authority throughout the territories.
According to reports from Tunis, the PLO’s Executive Committee was balking at approving the self-rule agreement until a mutual recognition pact was reached. It was expected, however, that the committee would eventually support the self-rule agreement.
Meanwhile, 189 Palestinians who were deported to Lebanon last year were preparing to return to Israel on Thursday.
Last December, Israel deported 415 Palestinians who were charged with being members of the Islamic fundamentalist Hamas movement. The expulsions followed a series of murderous attacks by Muslim extremists within Israel.
According to a plan worked out by Israel in mid-August, the group of 189 detainees were to return this week, with the balance to return by the end of the year. Nineteen of the original group were returned to Israel earlier this year because of illness or because Israeli authorities admitted they had been expelled in error.
Scores of buses were to be used to transfer the deportees Thursday from southern Lebanon to the prison facilities in which they were held before their deportation.
DEPORTEES WILL JOIN OPPOSITION TO PEACE
Upon their return to their original prison facilities, the returnees will be questioned by Israeli security officials.
Those who were under arrest before their deportation will return to jail. Deportees who are not under suspicion of participating in terrorist acts will be allowed to return to their homes.
According to some observers, the deportees allowed to return home may well add their voices to those Palestinian militants already protesting the latest peace initiatives. Most of the deportees are members of the extremist Hamas movement, which opposes peace with Israel.
Some 50,000 Israelis meanwhile continued their protest against the agreement for Palestinian self-rule.
The massive demonstration, which began Tuesday night when the protesters assembled outside the Prime Minister’s Office, continued through Wednesday.
Tens of thousands arrived on the scene Tuesday, following a carefully planned busing operation that brought opponents of the government from all over the country.
Despite warnings by the Education Ministry, organizers of the demonstration stopped the operation of schools in the settlements to allow elementary and high-school students to attend the demonstration.
At times, demonstrators clashed with police when they refused to evacuate the street adjacent to Rabin’s office and paralyzed the traffic in the area.
Police used water cannons and clubs Wednesday morning to disperse those who remained in front of Rabin’s office.
As the rally continued Wednesday, the number of demonstrators declined drastically. Around noon, the demonstrators again tried to converge on Rabin’s office, but they were again pushed back by police.
According to Israel Radio, seven police officers and 27 protesters were injured, and 30 people were arrested.
Demonstrators, who included religious opposition parties and settlers’ groups from the territories, vowed that they would remain outside Rabin’s office until Thursday.
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Michel Di Paz in Paris.)