Israel has contemptuously dismissed Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat’s public revocation of the Palestine National Covenant as “a lie.”
But privately, government officials here do not hide their surprise at the far-reaching nature of Arafat’s pronouncement, made Tuesday night over French television.
And a leading Labor Party figure on Wednesday urged Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to “expose the lie — if you insist it is a lie.”
The official Israeli response to Arafat’s statement that the PLO charter was “caduque” (obsolete, or null and void) came from Avi Pazner, Shamir’s spokesman. He said Arafat was an inveterate liar who was merely “continuing with the same old lies.”
“Arafat was elected on the basis of the covenant, and nothing else,” Pazner insisted, in response to the PLO chief’s statement that he was elected instead on the basis of the Palestine National Council’s endorsement in December of a two-state solution.
“Talk is cheap for Arafat,” Pazner added. “He feels the need to repay Mitterrand for hosting him. In a week he will find an explanation as to why the covenant has not in fact lapsed.”
In fact, Arafat lacks the legal authority to abrogate the charter. That would require a two-thirds majority of the PNC.
A Foreign Ministry official also dubbed Arafat’s statement part of “the web of lies. In practice Arafat has done nothing to change a letter of the covenant.”
EBAN SEES CHANGE IN ARAFAT
In Los Angeles, however, former Knesset member Abba Eban told some 900 supporters of Friends of Peace Now that the United States and France deserve credit for stimulating a change in Arafat’s thinking.
He criticized those who call PLO concessions mere rhetoric, while taking hostile Arab statements at face value. “We can’t have it both ways,” Eban said.
On the right of the Israeli political spectrum, some leaders sought to link Arafat to Wednesday’s murderous attack in downtown Jerusalem.
Shamir himself said it was “impossible not to see a connection” between the attack and Arafat’s visit. He said Mitterrand had turned “to a path that damages peace and damages the Jewish people” by pronouncing himself a friend of “that man.”
“So much for Arafat’s so-called moderation,” said Moledet Party leader Rehavam Ze’evi, visiting the site of the crime, as a throng of incensed Jewish Jerusalemites cheered him while hissing and booing Police Minister Haim Bar-Lev.
(JTA correspondent Tom Tugend in Los Angeles contributed to this story.)
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.