Israel abuzz over Knesset member's plan to address PLO council
Jerusalem — A Labor Party member of Israel's parliament has stunned the nation by trying to fly to Amman to address the Palestine Liberation Organization's parliament-in-exile.
It appeared unlikely by Wednesday evening that Abdel Wahab Daroushe, an Israeli Arab serving his first Knesset (parliament) term, would ever arrive in Amman.
Mr. Daroushe was reportedly held up in Cyprus by the Jordanian government's refusal to allow him to fly on to Amman.
He then reportedly flew to Athens, where he was contacted by an Israeli Labor Party official, who later said he had convinced Daroushe to return to Israel.
Just the news that Daruoshe hoped to go to Amman, however, precipitated a mini-crisis for the fragile national-unity government here.
In an interview published Wesdnesday in an Israeli weekly magazine, Daroushe said that he had been invited to fly to Amman by PLO chief Yasser Arafat.
An appearance by an Israeli Knesset member at the PLO's parliament, known as the Palestine National Council (PNC), would be a risk both for the Knesset member and for Mr. Arafat.
Arafat is trying to restore his eroded power within the organization by holding the long-delayed meeting in the face of opposition from both Syria and PLO hard-liners.
In a dramatic gesture Tuesday night, Arafat submitted his resignation to the PLO executive committee. The resignation was ignored, however, and the chairman was greeted with thunderous applause and cries of ''you must stay'' by PNC members when he arrived at the session Wednesday morning.
Even Arafat loyalists, however, would be hard-pressed to defend the arrival of an Israeli Knesset member at the PNC. The event would be considered another sign of Arafat's impetuosity and could endanger the chairman's position.
As for Daroushe, he risked possible prosecution in Israel upon his return if he addressed the PNC.
Justice Minister Moshe Nissim said in a statement that Daroushe's visit would be a ''prima facie violation of two laws.'' The first forbids travel to a hostile country; the second forbids meeting with foreign agents.
Israel is still technically at war with Jordan, and the Israelis consider the PLO, whose covenant calls for the destruction of the Zionist state and whose leaders advocate the establishment of a Palestinian state, to be a terrorist organization.
Daroushe's planned visit ''is very grave, very serious, and of no political value whatsoever,'' said Likud Knesset member Eliahu Ben-Elissar in an interview on Israel Radio.
One Labor Party member said in an interview that ''this could actually blow up the coalition, depending on what they (the Likud) demand we do about it and what our response is.''
''This whole incident is bizarre,'' said an aide to Prime Minister Shimon Peres, who asked not to be identified.
Through a spokesman, Peres denied any knowledge of Daroushe's plan and said the case is ''being examined.''
Foreign Minister and Likud-coalition head Yitzhak Shamir was far more harsh in his statement: ''This is a wantonness that requires a sharp and immediate reaction,'' Mr. Shamir said.
Daroushe said in the interview published Wednesday in Koteret Rashit that he was going to attend the PLO's Palestine National Council because ''I hope this dramatic gesture will cause a change in public opinion in Israel and a shift in the political position of the government under Prime Minister Peres.''
One Labor Party source says there is speculation even within the party that Peres might have known of the plan. However, the source says, it is unlikely that Peres would approve such a controversial visit.
''This is not something that would be worth bringing down the national-unity government,'' the source said. ''What would such a trip accomplish? In six months, if there is a Jordanian peace initiative, Peres might be willing to bring down the government. But for this? For someone going to the PLO? Labor would be crushed in the next elections for doing such a thing.''
Daroushe is a former teacher from the Galilee village of Ikla and a self-described leftist. Andrew Jalien, managing editor of the Labor Party magazine Spectrum, says he is ''very intelligent, very confident.''
Mr. Jalien said that in an interview he had with Daroushe recently, the Knesset member said he envisioned a solution of the Palestinian problem that would result in a confederation of a Palestinian entity on the West Bank and Gaza with Jordan and Israel.
Jalien says the attempt to visit the PNC ''was very daring, a bold gesture that might have brought a breakthrough.''
The attempt was also hailed by Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij, who said it was ''a mission of peace.''