Jordan Calls Arab Meeting As PLO Moves Ahead on Deal With Israel
THE Palestine Liberation Organization continued to press forward yesterday on its surprise deal with Israel as its Arab negotiating partner called for an Arab summit to determine the next steps in the rapidly shifting peace process.
Wary of hard-line efforts to derail peace arrangements, the PLO yesterday stepped up a public opinion campaign in the West Bank and pledged that its agreement with Israel would pave the way for the establishment of an independent state.
Israel Radio reported Thursday afternoon that PLO leader Yasser Arafat was expected to make an announcement from Tunis recognizing Israel, and that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin would afterwards recognize the PLO. There was no confirmation from Mr. Rabin's office.
Meanwhile in Amman, Jordan's King Hussein called for a summit meeting of Arab leaders, and said that Jordan rejected any agreement to which the kingdom was not a party. He did not, however, directly condemn the Israeli-Palestinian pact.
``The Arab nation is going through a dangerous phase and the Arab future is threatened.... This requires an Arab meeting,'' the king said. The king met with Syrian President Hafez al-Assad on Tuesday. Jordanian officials said Thursday they had no idea how soon an Arab summit could take place.
PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat was expected to fly to Amman yesterday to try to smooth relations with the king. Mr. Arafat has visited several Arab capitals in an attempt to gain backing for the agreement. He is also having to deal with anger and rejection within his own organization.
Arafat was to hold a Fatah session in Tunis yesterday. He needs the endorsement of his own group before proposing the accord for approval by the PLO Executive Committee and the Palestine National Council, or parliament in exile.
Haider Abdel-Shafi, head of the Palestinian delegation, said on Israel television that he would refuse to sign the agreement.
Opponents of the deal both inside the PLO and in the fundamentalist Islamic movements say that Arafat should not have agreed to postpone discussions on the status of East Jerusalem, which Palestinians see as a future capital, and should have gotten a firm commitment to establish a Palestinian state.
Early yesterday, Arafat faxed a letter read out to a gathering of 350 students at Bir Zeit University near the West Bank city of Ramallah. In the letter, he termed the agreement a boost to the PLO and a prelude to more gains.
``The PLO has gotten out of the bottleneck,'' he wrote. ``The PLO is now flying in the skies of Palestine, and very soon she will descend on the soil of Palestine. Very soon we will achieve our dream of freedom and independence, and we will build our independant Palestinian state and its capital, Jerusalem.``
Arafat phoned in with a similar message to a gathering Wednesday night at Al-Najah University in the West Bank city of Nablus.
The agreement calls for rapid-fire self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jerico, with the arrangement to be extended thereafter to the remainder of the West Bank. It leaves the status of East Jerusalem, and of Jewish settlements, to be determined in final status negotiations commencing at least two years after the agreement is implemented.
Faisal Husseini, coordinator of the Palestinian peace delegation, told the Bir Zeit audience that the agreement with Israel was ``a decision to preserve the Palestinian presence'' in the face of Israeli power and the United States' support for Israel.
Mr. Husseini's presence in the occupied territories rather than at the Washington peace table reflects concern about opposition to the agreement from an array of hard-line groups including Islamsist radicals and left-wing PLO radicals that charge the deal is a sellout of Palestinian land and the right to self-determination.
Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) leader George Habash wrote to the Bir Zeit gathering that the agreement ``will finish off the Palestinian issue in the name of politics, end the uprising, and implement the Zionist [design] in this region.''
A leaflet signed by the Islamic Jihad group Wednesday contained a clear threat to Arafat and his supporters. ``The plan is a decision to defeat the Palestinian people and to extend the occupation under the framework of self-rule,'' it said.
``Everyone who participates in selling the plan will not escape the account of Palestine and its sons,'' the leaflet said.
An opinion poll published in the East Jerusalem pro-Jordanian Al-Nahar newspaper Wednesday showed that 52.8 percent of residents in the occupied territories support the peace agreement. According to the poll, 70 percent of Gaza residents and 75 percent of Jericho back the agreement.