Israel, Arabs making more peace moves Rabin stops in Morocco

Arafat pleads for aid

September 15, 1993|By Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- In fast-moving events half a world apart, Israel and its Arab neighbors raced to shore up the fragile new framework of Mideast peace yesterday.

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, flying home from Monday's White House signing ceremony, made a surprise detour to Morocco for a meeting with King Hassan II, a moderate Arab who has had semi-official contacts with Israel for years.

Mr. Rabin described the stopover as a step toward formal relations with Morocco. But the official visit, the first by an Israeli head of government to an Arab country other than Egypt, had a larger symbolic meaning. It was designed to show nervous Israeli voters that their nation's new accord with the Palestinian Liberation Organization marks "a beginning of openness," Mr. Rabin said.

In a gesture that captured the dizzying changes taking place across the region, the king offered holiday greetings, in Hebrew, to the Israeli leader on the eve of the Jewish new year, which begins tonight.

Back in Washington, Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat resumed his effort to charm the American public. He pleaded with Congress for aid and spoke to the National Press Club before heading to the United Nations for the first time in 19 years.

At the State Department, Jordanian and Israeli diplomats initialed a formal agenda for talks between their two countries. The agreement, designed to lead to a peace treaty between the two countries, was also timed to build momentum toward a wider Arab-Israeli peace.

Although the agreement with Jordan was expected, it represents the most significant progress toward peace between Israel and a bordering Arab state since the latest round of Mideast talks began almost two years ago.

But the enormous gap between hope and reality in the Mideast was again underscored by renewed violence, as two Palestinians were killed and four Israeli soldiers wounded in separate incidents in the occupied Gaza Strip and West Bank.

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