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Sudden PLO Hints of New Peace Talks Seem Linked to Ban on Anti-arab Groups

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Within hours of the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to outlaw the militantly anti-Arab Kach and Kahane Chai groups, Palestinian sources in Tunis and Jerusalem were reportedly predicting that the suspended Israeli-Palestine Liberation Organization peace talks would resume March 21.

Government officials in the capital reacted with cautious surprise to the announcement from PLO officials.

They had received no word, they said, either from the Palestinians or from the United States, that the Washington talks would get under way again on that date.

Meanwhile, Israeli political sources said there had been no discussion during Sunday’s weekly Cabinet meeting about the proposal to forcibly evict Jewish settlers living inside the city of Hebron.

The week before, seven Cabinet ministers spoke out in favor of rejecting the Hebron settlers.

The sources indicated that any further discussion of the subject might prevent the fervently religious Shas party from rejoining the government coalition.

Last week, Shas officials announced they would rejoin the coalition under the terms of an arrangement with the government that would ban the importation of non-kosher meat.

The peace negotiations had been suspended by the PLO in the wake of the Feb. 25 killings of Palestinian worshipers by an Israeli settler at a Hebron mosque.

The Palestinian announcement that the talks would soon resume was reportedly conditioned on the passage of a satisfactory resolution by the U.N. Security Council condemning the Feb. 25 killings.

But the juxtaposition of the announcement to the Israeli Cabinet’s decision to outlaw Kach and Kahane Chai was not thought to be coincidental.

The Cabinet, in taking this draconian step against the two groups, was signaling to the Palestinians its desire to learn the lesson of the Hebron murders.

And the Palestinian side — although stressing in its official reactions that the step, while welcome, was inadequate — is apparently anxious to indicate that it does not want to see the peace process die as a result of the hiatus in the talks.

Behind-the-scenes discussions were still proceeding on the eventual wording of the U.N. Security Council resolution condemning the Hebron attack.

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