3 Palestinians, irked at Arafat, may quit peace talks

August 09, 1993|By New York Times News Service

JERUSALEM -- Three senior members of the Palestinian delegation to the Middle East peace talks are threatening to resign because of sharp differences with the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman, Yasser Arafat, the head of the delegation said yesterday.

Faisal al-Husseini, Hanan Ashrawi and Saeb Erekat left yesterday to present their resignations to Mr. Arafat in Tunis, where the PLO has its headquarters, said Haidar Abdel-Shafi, the head of the delegation.

[Israeli radio reported today that the entire delegation had been summoned to Tunis to discuss the matter.]

Even if the resignations are eventually rescinded, the move underscores a bitter rift in the Palestinian camp. The dispute could also be a serious blow to the efforts of U.S. Secretary of State Warren M. Christopher, who met with the participants in the peace talks last week and hoped to get the moribund 21-month-old negotiations on track.

The Palestinian delegation, made up of leaders who live in Israeli-occupied territories and East Jerusalem, has increasingly chafed at what they see as Mr. Arafat's erratic and dictatorial manner, according to Palestinian officials. Most were incensed when the PLO chief sent them a faxed proposal offering new concessions to the Israelis just an hour before the delegation was to meet with Mr. Christopher in Jerusalem.

The delegates were angry at not being consulted in advance. They felt that Mr. Arafat had gone too far, especially by agreeing to discuss the status of Jerusalem, which both the Israelis and Palestinians claim, at a later date, Palestinian officials said. The delegates also felt that Mr. Arafat appeared too willing to grant new concessions concerning the five-year interim self-rule offered to the Palestinians by Israel.

The delegates were further angered when they learned that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt had handed PLO amendments to the U.S. proposal to Mr. Christopher in Cairo, the first stop on his trip to the Middle East, Palestinians officials said.

The delegates reject the U.S. proposal because it does not define the territorial jurisdiction of self-rule and does not include East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel after the 1967 Middle East War, in the area under Palestinian control.

And rather than give Mr. Christopher the response from Mr. Arafat, they gave him their own draft proposal, which called for the Palestinians to have total jurisdiction over the occupied territories and demanded that Jerusalem be under Palestinian control.

Israeli officials dismissed the draft as unrealistic.

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