Arafat’s party calls for end to Israel on group’s Web site

NEW YORK, Aug. 11 (JTA) — The Web site of Yasser Arafat’s mainstream Fatah movement contains a constitution that supports armed struggle against Israel instead of a negotiated peace. The group’s constitution — posted in www.fateh.org — says Fatah opposes “any political solution offered as an alternative to demolishing the Zionist occupation in Palestine.” The Web site, which has been criticized by Israeli officials, also contains numerous articles and editorials — one of which accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of plotting to assassinate Arafat. In addition to serving as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, Arafat is head of Fatah, the largest party in the Palestine Liberation Organization, which Arafat also leads. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s spokesman, David Bar-Illan, said the site is “as clear an indication as any that the PLO has not abandoned its intention to destroy the State of Israel.” Dore Gold, Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations, said he plans to discuss the Web site next week with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Fares Kadurah, a member of Fatah’s top representative body in the West Bank and a member of the Palestinian legislative council, said in an interview that he had no idea who had set up the Web site, adding that Fatah had been “done much damage” by the materials posted on the site. He charged that the “publicity around the publications on the Web site is the result of Zionist propaganda,” he said. Noting that “Fatah supports the peace process,” Kadurah said his movement is presently dedicated to using political means to achieve its ends. But, he added, “if we fail, we shall maintain the option of popular struggle, including reasonable violence, which will be accepted by world public opinion.” The constitution posted on the Web site also lists the movement’s “essential principles,” one of which states that the “Israeli existence in Palestine is a Zionist invasion with a colonial expansive base, and it is a natural ally to colonialism and international imperialism.” Describing Fatah as a “movement representing the revolutionary vanguard of the Palestinian people,” the constitution also calls for the “complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.” This call, contained in Article 12 of the constitution, makes no distinction between Israel and the territories it captured — the West Bank and Gaza Strip — during the 1967 Six-Day War. Kadurah described Fatah’s Constitution as “outdated” and that it needs to be amended by the General Conference of Fatah, which he said has not convened since 1989. As part of its negotiations with the Palestinians, Israel has been calling on Arafat to live up to clauses in already-signed agreements aimed at creating an atmosphere of peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. These clauses include the revocation of the anti-Israel clauses contained in the Palestinian Covenant — the founding charter of the PLO, which is a different document than the Fatah Constitution — and to clamp down on anti-Israel rhetoric expressed by Palestinian officials and media. Israel’s U.N. envoy has repeatedly brought the issue of the covenant to the attention of the world body. Gold said in an interview that the Fatah Constitution “raises very serious questions about whether the covenant has been changed.” Palestinian officials have repeatedly maintained that the covenant was amended in April 1996. Other articles posted on the Web site are an instructive source for the movement’s opinions about a host of issues related to the peace process. An editorial, “Palestinian Independence: Legitimate Struggle, Not Conspiracy,” refers to two key players on President Clinton’s peace process team — the Middle East envoy, Dennis Ross, and the assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern Affairs, Martin Indyk — as “U.S. administration Zionists.” The editorial also calls Clinton a “lame duck due to the pressures of the Israeli lobby.” Its harshest words are reserved for Netanyahu, who is described as believing that “Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, have no choice but to comply with his will.” The editorial further accuses Netanyahu of “planning to get rid of President Arafat, since he finds him an insurmountable obstacle.” “In fact,” the editorial continues, “all of the rumors spread by the Israeli press and agents about Arafat’s health are an attempt to prepare public opinion to accept the Israeli assassination plan as a natural development.” Kadurah found the allegations of an assassination plot to be plausible. “It should be in the interest of all governments in the area to keep Arafat alive,” he said. “But I do believe that the Israelis could plot to kill Arafat if they were led to believe that his murder could lead to internal strife within Palestinian society.” (JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem and JTA staff writer Julia Goldman contributed to this report.)

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