United States Vice President George Bush met Tuesday night with 18 prominent West Bank and Gaza Palestinian personalities and engaged in discussion over the twin issue of Palestinian self-determination and the role of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Middle East peace.
Bush was reported by a meeting participant to have reiterated strongly that the U.S. policy regarding the PLO had not changed, and that the organization must accept UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and Israel’s right to exist as a condition for its participation in the peace process.
Hana Seniora, editor of the East Jerusalem newspaper Al-Fajr and whom Israel had said would be acceptable as a Palestinian negotiator, reported after the meeting that “Bush said the U.S. wanted to help promote the peace, but we said this is not enough.”
Although 18 Palestinians invited to the meeting, held at the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, attended, at least nine others stayed away, heeding calls of rejectionist Palestinian groups to boycott the meeting. Palestinian sources said the rejectionists had voiced physical threats to some of the invitees to induce them to shun the meeting.
Among those attending were Seniora; Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem; Hafez Touqan, acting Mayor of Nablus; and Hatem abu Ghazaleh, a prominent Gaza activist. The deposed Mayor of Hebron, Mustafa Natshe, was among those who stayed away from the meeting. There was also a partial strike of shops and businesses in East Jerusalem protesting American policy on the Palestinian issue.
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