Palestinians React Angrily to Netanyahu’s U.S. Speech

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress has generated angry ripples across the Arab world.

“It seems to me that Mr. Netanyahu has made up his mind to go ahead with a declaration of war against the Palestinians,” Faisal Husseini, the top Palestinian official in Jerusalem, told Army Radio on Thursday.

In his speech Wednesday, Netanyahu stated that Israel would move ahead with the peace process when Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat demonstrated that he could clamp down on terrorism.

Making no concessions to the Palestinians in a speech that reiterated the “peace with security” stance of his election campaign, he also declared that “there will never be a redivision of Jerusalem.”

Hanan Ashrawi, recently named the Palestinian minister of higher education, called Netanyahu’s remarks one of the “most dangerous speeches” ever delivered before Congress.

The Palestinian Council — the legislative body in the self-rule areas — met in a special session Thursday to discuss what Ahmed Karia, the council’s speaker, described as the “unbearable Israeli violations” of the self-rule accords.

Karia said the council would present recommendations to the Palestinian leadership during a meeting in the Gaza Strip over the weekend.

Arafat, for his part, offered only a brief reaction, telling reporters in Gaza that Jerusalem is “the capital of Palestine, forever.”

In Syria, Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa was quoted as calling the Israeli leader’s policies “irresponsible,” warning that they would lead to a halt in the peace process.

He said Arab countries would soon begin coordinating their response to Netanyahu’s remarks.

In Cairo, the Arab League secretariat said Netanyahu’s speech before Congress only served to increase tension and violence in the region.

Esmat Abdel-Meguid, secretary-general of the 22-nation Arab League, described Netanyahu’s speech as a “flagrant challenge to the resolutions of international diplomacy.”

Netanyahu, meanwhile, was expected to travel to Egypt and Jordan next week in an effort to discuss his positions with the leaders of the two nations.

A senior Egyptian official was quoted as saying Thursday that Netanyahu would make a brief trip to Cairo for talks with President Hosni Mubarak and Foreign Minister Amre Moussa.

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdul Karim al-Kabariti told a news conference in Amman that the Israeli leader would visit next week.

In Jerusalem, Foreign Minister David Levy said Wednesday that he would meet with Arafat within two weeks, adding that Netanyahu might meet with the Palestinian leader even sooner.

In a separate development, Science Minister Ze’ev “Benny” Begin met Thursday with the Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Basiouny, in Jerusalem.

Begin said after the meeting that the two had discussed the peace process, but he refused to elaborate.

He added that he was working on a plan to forge closer technological ties between the two countries.

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