Surprise Summit Aims to Clarify Israeli, PLO Positions
JERUSALEM — ISRAELI Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman (PLO) Yasser Arafat are scheduled to meet in Cairo Oct. 6.
The surprise summit hosted by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is the first encounter between two leaders since their historic handshake at the White House on Sept. 13, after the PLO and Israel signed a Declaration of Principles laying the basis for Palestinian self-rule.
PLO sources in Tunis were quoted by Reuters as saying this first-ever working meeting between Mr. Rabin and Mr. Arafat had been scheduled at Israel's request. Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres recently expressed concern that the PLO was dragging its feet in naming a Palestinian negotiating team to hammer out the details of the interim peace accord in talks due to open in mid-October.
Left-wing Israelis, who strongly support the agreement, also have expressed alarm with recent PLO declarations describing the self-government accord as tantamount to the creation of a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as the capital. ``I hope we'll get a clearer picture of PLO positions, and they will get a clearer idea of our positions, because according to the declarations that we have heard in the last two weeks, we get the impression sometimes that the PLO means one thing and we mean entirely another thing,'' says Israeli Environment Minister Yossi Sarid. ``We are entering a period of complex negotiations and the prime minister has decided that it's preferable to talk directly to the highest level on the other side,'' Mr. Sarid adds.
THE Declaration of Principles sets a timetable for the transfer of many aspects of Israeli military rule in the occupied territories to a new Palestinian authority. The transfer is to begin in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho, and will include the creation of a Palestinian police force and the staging of Palestinian elections just eight months from now.
Sarid says he expects Rabin and Arafat to define further the meaning of the ``Jericho-and-Gaza first'' concept; talk about early transfers of authority to Palestinians in fields such as education and health; and seek a better understanding on the overall scope of the Palestinian government's powers in advance of the opening of formal negotiations on those issues.
Sarid says he also believes that Palestinian protests over a recent wave of Israeli arrests of armed Palestinians in the territories would in fact be a ``marginal'' issue in the meeting.
The PLO has complained that recent Israeli raids on the PLO-affiliated Black Panther group and the radical Islamic group Hamas were undermining Arab confidence in the agreement. Two Palestinians were killed, homes were demolished, and dozens were arrested in those raids.
The announcement of today's Israeli-PLO summit was denounced by Israel's right-wing Likud party. ``We've already promised them everything without getting anything in return,'' says one hard-line Likud leader, Ariel Sharon. ``The Arab boycott hasn't been abolished, and we have not had one day of quiet, only a worsening of terror.''
On Monday, a suicide car-bomb attack by Hamas on a busload of Israeli soldiers resulted in 30 Israeli injuries. Since the Sept. 13 accord, two Israelis have been killed by opposition Islamic groups.