Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Israeli-Palestinian Pact Awaits Signatures, Sources Say

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Israeli-Palestinian Pact Awaits Signatures, Sources Say

Article excerpt

The declaration on limited Palestinian autonomy is ready for signature - once it is decided who will sign for Israel and who for the Palestinians, PLO representative Nabil Shaath said Wednesday.

The PLO was seeking to attend the signing, possibly at the level of the PLO's foreign minister, Shaath said.

The secret talks in Norway brought a pledge to begin Palestinian self-government in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank city of Jericho. On Tuesday, the Israeli Cabinet approved the plan, and the 18-member central committee of Fatah, the largest group in the Palestine Liberation Organization, is expected to announce its decision today in Tunis, Tunisia.

Palestinian opponents have blasted the plan for being too limited and for failing to deal with the key issue of the status of Jerusalem. Israeli critics say that the accord threatens Israel's security.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat stressed that he was not giving up the fight for Jerusalem. "Whoever would relinquish an inch of Jerusalem is not an Arab or a Muslim," he said in Sudan Tuesday night before heading to Tunis, where he called the Fatah Central Committee meeting.

Arafat badly needs his own Fatah faction's backing to continue with the peace process. He faces death threats from radical factions within his organization over the plan.

On the Israeli side, leaders also tried to ensure public support for the plan. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said, "We remain very optimistic that these negotiations can be concluded in a short while, provided that none of us make unnecessary mistakes and none of us return to the old suspicions and prejudices."

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin went on a radio talk show Wednesday to explain the peace plan, stressing that he did not want to create a Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan.

He also said it would be impossible for Israel to retain its nature as a haven for Jews if it tried to absorb the 1.8 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Earlier Wednesday, in his first public excursion since the plan was announced, Rabin was pelted with eggs and called a traitor by hecklers at the opening of the school year in a religious Jewish neighborhood. …

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