Pnc Action on Charter Still Matter of Debate

Senior government officials and opposition leaders have continued to clash over the meaning of last month’s Palestine National Council vote to amend its charter.

In the latest round of the dispute, Foreign Minister Ehud Barak clashed with Likud Knesset member Ze’ev “Benny” Begin at a parliamentary committee meeting Monday over whether the PNC had amended the charter’s anti-Israel clauses.

Barak maintained that the English translation of the PNC’s April 24 decision to amend the charter was identical to the Arabic text.

But Begin charged that the Arab version states that the clauses dealing with the destruction of Israel are to be canceled at a future date, and not that they have been canceled.

Right-wing Israeli and American Jewish groups have said the PNC failed to fulfill Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat’s commitment to Israel to change the charter because it decided to refer drafting of a new charter to a legal committee.

Meanwhile, 10 members of the U.S. Congress sent a four-page letter to Secretary of State Warren Christopher expressing “considerable confusion” over the PNC vote.

The letter, initiated by Sens. Alfonse D’Amato (R-N.Y.) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), said the members “are inclined to believe that a final decision on revoking the estimated 28 articles which question Israel’s right to exist and/or call for armed struggle has been once against put off for a future date.”

Because the PNC set no affirmative date for redrafting the charter, said the signers of the letter, they are endangering the continuation of U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority.

Congress had imposed a May 7 deadline on the PNC to amend the charter and $10 million in aid is still being held up by Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee and one of the signatories of the letter, which was released last Friday.

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