PLO Calls for Summit To End Impasse on Accord

Arafat seeks symbolic step by Israel on Dec. 13 withdrawal deadline

PALESTINE Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat is seeking a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in an attempt to break the impasse over the implementation of the peace accord on limited Palestinian autonomy.

PLO officials in Amman and Tunis express hope that a summit can take place Dec. 12, a day before the date agreed upon in the PLO-Israeli accord for the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho.

``We believe that the only way to break the deadlock is through a political meeting between Mr. Arafat and Mr. Rabin,'' says a close aide to the PLO leader.

Arafat asked US Secretary of State Warren Christopher, during a meeting in the US Embassy in Amman on Dec. 6, to urge Israel to withdraw its troops from Gaza and Jericho according to the schedule set by the accord. Secretary Christopher is expected to travel to Tunis on Dec. 9 to convey Israel's response to Arafat. Implementation obstacles

The three sticking points that obstruct implementation of the accord on Palestinian self-rule are: a dispute over the area of Jericho that will come under Palestinian administration; control over the crossing points between Jordan and the occupied West Bank; and release of more than 10,000 political prisoners.

Christopher reiterated to Arafat Israeli and Western concerns that the PLO has so far failed to establish the appropriate structures needed to take over the administration and internal security in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.

In a Dec. 6 statement, Christopher said that ``putting in place credible structures to receive'' the assistance by international donors was crucial to the process.

But according to Arafat's aides, the chairman said that the PLO resents what it views as outside interference in decisions that infringe on ``Palestinian sovereignty.''

Countering criticism that the PLO is ill-prepared on the eve of the scheduled transition, Arafat has argued that the World Bank and the other donors are trying to strip the PLO of its control over the political decisions in favor of wealthy Palestinians and technocrats. Such arguments have secured him wide support among his mainstream Fatah group.

At a closed meeting with his Fatah supporters in Amman on Dec. 5, Arafat vowed not to allow any foreign power to dictate Palestinian political decisions, nor obstruct his desire to give PLO revolutionaries priority when Palestinian authority comes to Jericho and Gaza.

Palestinian officials concede that the preparations have fallen short of the needed requirements to meet the Dec. 13 deadline, but argue that the PLO has established enough structures to warrant at least a partial withdrawal of Israeli troops on schedule.

The officials say that the PLO has already started appointing heads of the various departments in the Palestine Economic Development and Reconstruction Agency (PEDRA), the council entrusted to supervise the economic program, and other administrations in Gaza and Jericho. Arafat's appointments

Arafat has come under severe internal and international criticism for favoring political appointees to professionals and experts in the new transitional organizations.

Arafat's new appointments suggest that the PLO leader is now trying to shore up support for his decisions, particulalry in the Gaza Strip. For example, he will not change the heads of the existing adminstrative and service departments in the Gaza Strip.

``We cannot afford a shake-up in the existing system,'' says a close adviser, who has been involved in the decisionmaking. ``Adminstrative officials who have the experience should not feel that they are being invaded or replaced by newcomers imposed by the leadership in Tunis.''

The big question that seems to concern both Israel and the donor countries that will finance Palestinian self-rule is whether the PLO will be ready by Dec. 13 to take over the security of the two areas.

The PLO says that an 8,000-man security force has been trained in Jordan and Egypt, and about half of them are ready to take over security operations once Israel allows them to enter Gaza and Jericho.

Christopher said on Dec. 6 that the US has decided to provide ``non-lethal assistance'' to the PLO police force now being trained, which will most likely consist primarily of vehicles from surplus military stocks.

Sources close to Arafat say he does not expect Israel to agree to meet the deadline fully, but that he will insist that at least a number of PLO personnel be allowed to enter Jericho and Gaza Dec. 13 as ``a symbolic step'' signaling the begining of the accord's implementation.

Such a step would help to keep support for the peace process among Palestinians from eroding further.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.