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Peres Calls Vow to Create Palestinian State a `dream’

January 24, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has said Palestinian vows to create an independent state are “a dream.”

Peres’ comments came after he met Wednesday night with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat, who, speaking to Egyptian journalists earlier in Gaza, said a Palestinian state could come into being within a year and a half, if negotiations were conducted intensively.

The two leaders, meeting at the Erez crossing along the Israel-Gaza border, discussed the results of Saturday’s Palestinian elections, a Palestinian demand for additional prisoner release and Israel’s insistence that the Palestine National Covenant be amended.

The meeting came a day after Arafat, in an interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in Gaza, said he would not commit himself to revoking or amending those sections of the covenant calling for the destruction of Israel.

Peres’ meeting with Arafat was the first time the two leaders came face-to-face since the PLO leader won the presidency of the Palestinian Council on Saturday.

After Saturday’s elections, Peres said that he would permit all members of the Palestine National Council, even those opposed to the peace accords and those with Jewish blood on their hands, to return to the West Bank and Gaza to participate in a meeting of the PNC in order to change the covenant.

According to the peace accords, the amendment of the charter must occur no later than two months after the inauguration of the new Palestinian government. All the 88 newly elected members of the Palestinian Council will become members of the PNC.

One of the PNC’s existing members is Nayef Hawatmeh of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He was behind the 1974 massacre in Ma’alot in northern Israel in which 21 schoolchildren were killed.

Peres told reporters Wednesday that it did not matter whether Hawatmeh stayed in Damascus, where he is based, or came to the self-rule areas.

However, in a statement to reporters in the Syrian capital, Hawatmeh said he wanted to return, but not under the conditions set by Israel.

“We are ready, leadership and members, to return home. But that should not be under the conditions set by Peres,” he said.

Israeli officials have made clear their expectation that the PNC will be convened to take action to amend or abrogate the covenant, and also have cautioned that the peace process will be stopped if the PNC fails to do so.

Israel Radio, quoting Palestinian sources, said contacts were already under way in preparation for the permanent-status negotiations scheduled to begin in May.

On the agenda of these talks will be some of the most difficult issues that have yet to be resolved, including the status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, borders and the political status of Jerusalem, Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, borders and the political status of the Palestinians.

Meanwhile, Peres said Wednesday that in the permanent arrangement, Israel would insist that Ma’aleh Adumim, a Jewish city in the West Bank near Jerusalem, remain under Israeli law.

Peres said he would follow the policy set by the predecessor, the late Yitzhak Rabin, on the matter.

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