Israel can discuss settlements now

The Monitor gives by far the fairest reportage on the Middle East. But regarding the front-page article ``Flurry of Diplomacy Aims to Put Middle East Talks Back on Track,'' March 15, I have a comment on the statement that in the September Israel-PLO Declaration of Principles it was agreed ``to defer consideration of the settlements' future until negotiations on the final status of the occupied territories, due to begin in 1995.''

This is a media-spread misperception. Article V of the declaration states: ``Permanent status negotiations will commence as soon as possible, but not later than the beginning of the third year of the interim period.'' The issues to be covered in such negotiations shall include ``Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, security arrangements, borders, relations and cooperation with other neighbors and other issues of common interest.''

There is therefore every reason for the PLO demand that the Israeli government uproot some settlements immediately, and there is nothing that bars such essential action unless it be the unwillingness of the Rabin government. If the Clinton administration wants the peace process to go forward it should persuade Israel to take this course, and to approve an international peace force in the occupied territories. This would show the world that we really want a just peace. Alfred M. Lilienthal, Washington Oliver Wilcox

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