Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Israel Moves a Step Closer Toward Direct Talks with PLO

August 16, 1993
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israel has moved a step closer toward direct talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization by saying it will continue to negotiate with three members of the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks who have been appointed to the PLO committee monitoring the talks.

The three negotiators — Faisal Husseini, Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat — were among seven Palestinians who were named last week to the PLO steering committee for the peace talks.

Although most members of the Palestinian delegation to the talks have now become official PLO representatives, the Israeli government seemed unconcerned by the move.

At the weekly Cabinet session Sunday, most ministers argued that the new appointments have not caused a substantial change in the status quo.

They stressed that the PLO communique on the appointments did not specifically state that the Palestinian delegates had joined official PLO organs and that the move was described merely as a step toward improving the handling of the peace negotiations.

Cabinet Secretary Elyakim Rubinstein made clear that there is no change in Israel’s attitude toward the PLO and that the government is standing by its principle of negotiating only with representatives of the residents of the administered territories.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres also emphasized that Israel is adhering to its original conditions for participating in the peace process, one of which was no direct contacts with the PLO.

The two nonetheless failed to rule out the possibility of eventually negotiating directly with the PLO.

Cabinet Ministers Yair Tsaban and Yossi Sarid of the dovish Meretz bloc openly applauded the PLO communique.

“The latest development in the PLO is desirable and positive,” said Sarid. “PLO-Tunis cannot survive without PLO-territories and vice versa, and the tighter the connection between them, the better it will be for the peace negotiations.”


Israel’s apparent indifference to the changes comes in sharp contrast to the last Israeli government’s refusal to meet with Palestinian delegate Erekat in December 1991 after he declared that he was a member of the PLO.

Only after Erekat retracted his statement did the Israeli government, then headed by the more hard-line Likud party, accept him back at the negotiating table.

Likud politicians and other members of the current opposition are, meanwhile, furious over the latest developments.

They are insisting that no negotiations be held with Palestinians who are official members of the PLO and they are calling for a special Knesset debate on the subject during the legislature’s summer recess.

The mass-circulation daily Yediot Achronot wrote in its editorial Sunday that most of the Israeli public is now aware of the fact that there is no way out of direct talks with the PLO.

However, the paper added, the public would have preferred a government that uses its readiness to talk with the PLO “as a means of receiving valuable Palestinian concessions,” and not a government that blinks its eyes saying nothing has changed “while everything has changed.”

The Palestinian negotiators, meanwhile, are trying to return to business to usual.

Husseini went to Gaza on Sunday in an effort to smooth out differences with the official head of the delegation, Haidar Abdel-Shafi.

Abdel-Shafi emerged recently as a chief critic of the way the negotiations were being handled and had passed his criticisms on to the local Palestinian leadership as well as to PLO leader Yasir Arafat.

The Israelis and the Palestinians are now getting ready for the next round of bilateral negotiations at the end of this month in Washington. They are hopeful of finding a formula that will get the talks out of the present deadlock.

Recommended from JTA