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In Meeting with U.S. Jewish Group, Arafat Pledges to Curb Terrorists

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Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat told a visiting group of American Jews this week that he would crack down on terrorists seeking to derail the peace process.

Meeting with a leadership delegation of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council on Thursday at his beachfront office in Gaza, Arafat singled out Syria, Libya and Iran for supporting rejectionist groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“They’re getting more money than we’re getting,” Arafat said, referring to his financially strapped Palestinian Authority, which governs the autonomous Gaza Strip and Jericho enclave in the West Bank.

Help from the international community has been painfully slow in coming, he told the officials from NJCRAC, the umbrella body, which represents national and local Jewish organizations.

One year after the self-rule accord was signed with Israel in Washington, Arafat complained, the Palestinians have received nothing with which to rebuild the “infrastructure that was completely destroyed by the occupation.

“After one year, promises and nothing but promises,” he said, referring to pledges of aid from foreign nations that have been delayed.

Arafat also said there has to be a “very practical” solution to the question of Jerusalem, which is slated to be discussed in the final-status negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. While those negotiations are not scheduled to begin until 1996, Israel has steadfastly maintained that Jerusalem will remain as Israel’s eternal and undivided capital.

ARAFAT COMPARES JERUSALEM TO ROME

Arafat said Jerusalem could be the undivided capital of two states, “like Rome is for the Vatican and for the Italian government.” He added that Israel and the Palestinians could share the city without setting up “a Berlin Wall.”

Arafat also told the American delegation that there is no turning back in the peace process, despite all the obstacles.

“There is no other alternative,” he said.

The group also met with Nabil Sha’ath, chief negotiator in the Israeli-PLO talks for implementing Palestinian self-rule and minister of economic affairs for the Palestinian Authority.

Sha’ath told the Jewish leaders there was not enough support within the Palestine National Council to abrogate the clause in its charter calling for Israel’s destruction. But he predicted such a vote could take place after Palestinian elections, the terms over which Israel and the PLO are currently negotiating.

More than a year ago, as part of the Israeli-PLO mutual recognition pact that led up to the signing of the self-rule accord, Arafat had vowed to convene the PNC to delete the anti-Israel clauses from its charter.

Sha’ath also said Jewish settlers currently living in the West Bank and Gaza should not be permitted to remain there under a final agreement on Palestinian self-rule. He said U.S. loan guarantees could help compensate them for relocation.

Following the meetings, the group expressed satisfaction.

“It was an important day,” said Lynn Lyss, chair of NJCRAC. “We’re very supportive of the peace process, and we came to (get) a better understanding of Arafat’s views on issues of concern to us.”

“Not only did we hear from them, but they also had an opportunity to hear from us,” she said.

NJCRAC’s executive committee adopted a policy statement earlier this week expressing strong support for the peace process and for what they described as Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s “bold efforts to achieve security for the Israeli people and normalized relations with Israel’s neighbors.”

At the same time, the statement called for “additional efforts” on the part of the PLO to “curb terrorism and to develop the kind of economic institutions that will give confidence to an international community committed to Palestinian development.”

It also called for the PLO to hold democratic elections in Gaza and the West Bank as soon as possible, and to rescind the clause in its covenant calling for Israel’s elimination.

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