Israel demands pledge from Arafat to uphold accord

May 24, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin demanded yesterday that Yasser Arafat pledge in writing to uphold the Israeli-Palestinian peace accord after the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization appeared to suggest that the pact was only temporary, little more than a tactical maneuver.

Israel warned that if Mr. Arafat resists, it would not implement subsequent stages of Palestinian autonomy and might break off further talks with the PLO.

Police Minister Moshe Shahal, speaking for the government, said Israel would suspend implementation of the agreement on self-government, which is just going into effect in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho, if Palestinian attacks upon Israelis do not end and if Mr. Arafat does not retract his belligerent statements.

"If the terrorist attacks continue along with these wretched statements by Arafat and others, statements that contradict the peace agreement, we will continue to talk with the Palestinians, but we will not continue to implement the coming stages before the PLO's ability to control Gaza and Jericho is proven by fulfilling their commitments to us," Mr. Shahal told Parliament.

Israel also wants Mr. Arafat to complete the appointment of the interim 24-member government for the Gaza Strip and Jericho and to give his Palestinian police orders to impose order on what it sees as chaos in Gaza.

"We are not discussing any timetable for the next phase until we can see whether the other side can stand behind its present commitment," said Oded Ben-Ami, a Rabin spokesman.

Israelis are angry over the pre-dawn killing Friday of two soldiers guarding the northern entrance to the Gaza Strip.

Even more so, Mr. Rabin is incensed by an Arafat speech, made May 10 at a mosque in Johannesburg, South Africa, in which the PLO leader called for a "jihad," meaning a holy war or struggle, over Jerusalem and appeared to suggest that the agreement with Israel is simply tactical, politically expedient and might be put aside.

In Johannesburg, Mr. Arafat compared the PLO's agreement with Israel to the 10-year peace pact that the Prophet Mohammed made with the Quraysh clan in Mecca. Muslims took Mecca two years later, in A.D. 630, claiming that the Qurayshis had violated the agreement. Israelis interpreted Mr. Arafat's remarks to mean that he, too, would back out whenever he believes he can achieve total victory.

Mr. Arafat later said that his use of "jihad" meant a peaceful crusade. Israel regards the holy city as its capital. The PLO wants to make East Jerusalem the capital of a future Palestinian state.

Environment Minister Yossi Sarid said Mr. Arafat had created a "crisis of confidence" that could derail the peace efforts. "He [Arafat] has to declare that his grave and regrettable words in the mosque in Johannesburg are null and void. He must again declare his complete commitment to the accord with Israel."

Although there was no immediate response from Mr. Arafat's Tunis headquarters, his adviser, Ahmad Tibi, said in Jerusalem that the Israelis are overreacting.

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