WASHINGTON, Jan. 28 (JTA) — The Palestinian Authority has, “on the whole,” complied with its commitments made to Israel, according to a recent State Department report. The certification, required under U.S. law, allows aid to and diplomatic contact with Yasser Arafat’s government. The report, issued semi-annually for the past three years, is considered pro forma, because without passing muster, the Palestinians would not be able to receive U.S. aid. U.S. officials have deemed the $500 million pledge in aid, spread over five years, essential to the ongoing peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. The report details areas in which the Palestinian Authority has complied with its commitments to Israel, including renunciation of terrorism and confiscation of weapons. The report, which also summarizes the various commitments the Palestinians have made, includes a chronology of incidents of violence and terrorism committed by Palestinians. The Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority “have — on the whole — taken steps to carry out their commitments and otherwise have taken the steps called for in” U.S. law, the report states. Among the recommendations in the 13-page report, the State Department said the Palestinian Authority “could institute a more effective process of command and control to ensure that there will be no repetition of the September 1996 confrontations between the Palestinian police and the Israel Defense Forces.” That violence, which erupted after Israel opened a new entrance to a Jerusalem tunnel, deteriorated into armed clashes, which left 76 Israelis and Palestinians dead. The report, which has drawn criticism from opponents of the Oslo peace process, also reflects new agreements between the parties. One of the more noteworthy additions revolves around the long- controversial Palestinian Covenant. The U.S. government and the former Israeli government, led by Shimon Peres, deemed the April 24, 1996, vote of the Palestine National Council to amend the covenant as a fulfillment of its commitment on the issue. However, the current Israeli government believes that the PNC only deleted unspecified sections of the covenant calling for the destruction of Israel and needs to write new portions, as they voted to do last April. The Israeli concern, which is reflected in the recent deal on Hebron, is also included in the State Department report: “The P.A. reaffirmed the commitment to Israel to complete the process of revising the covenant” as part of the recent Hebron accords, the report states. This addition means that once again, the covenant issue is in the spotlight, as the State Department watches for compliance. The report also echoes a previous U.S. call to Italy to seek custody of Abu Abbas, the mastermind of the 1985 Achille Lauro hijacking, who is believed to have been in Gaza for nearly a year. An Italian court, in absentia, sentenced Abbas to life in prison. On the same day that the State Department released its report certifying compliance, the Zionist Organization of America released two statements calling on the United States to withhold aid to the Palestinian Authority. Citing reports that Arafat posted more Palestinian police than allowed under the Hebron accords and that they carried banned weapons, ZOA President Morton Klein called for the Clinton administration to “use its $500 million aid package to the PLO as leverage to force the PLO to cease such anti-peace behavior.” Klein, who has led the charge against U.S. aid to the Palestinians, immediately condemned the State Department. “This State Department report reads like an attorney’s brief for the PLO, ignoring or whitewashing the mountain of evidence proving that the PLO is guilty of constant violation and anti-peace behavior,” Klein said.
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