Pact extends authority of Palestinians

August 19, 1994|By Los Angeles Times

JERUSALEM -- Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization stepped beyond differences over security issues and agreed yesterday to expand Palestinian control over some government functions throughout the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath said in Alexandria, Egypt, that Palestinians will take responsibility for education and cultural affairs in the West Bank before the end of August.

They also said they would try to wrap up talks next week on turning over health care, tourism and taxation responsibilities to the Palestinians.

The handover of civil authority comes before the two sides have agreed on a redeployment of Israeli troops outside West Bank Palestinian population centers or a date for Palestinian elections.

Mr. Shaath and Mr. Peres failed to issue an expected joint statement committing Israel and the PLO to fight against terrorism together.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin reportedly told a group of Israeli lawmakers Wednesday that he believed the PLO's recent arrest of Hamas activists in the Gaza Strip was little more than a publicity stunt. Mr. Rabin has expressed disappointment with PLO Chairman Yassir Arafat's reluctance to crush Hamas.

The PLO rounded up about 40 Hamas activists after an Israeli was shot to death and six others wounded in two drive-by shootings in Gaza on Sunday. All have been released.

The Israeli army says there have been 39 shooting incidents by Palestinians against Israelis in Gaza since the PLO took over in May. Palestinian police have failed to arrest anyone in the attacks.

But Mr. Shaath told reporters in Alexandria that the Palestinians are committed "to the maintenance of peace and doing everything possible to stop violence." Mr. Peres welcomed Mr. Shaath's statement as "a real commitment."

Col. Tawfik Jaber, head of Palestinian police intelligence in southern Gaza, reportedly delivered a warning from Mr. Arafat to Hamas that its members must not carry guns in public or wear masks.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant Islamic group that rejects the PLO peace accord with Israel, have warned Mr. Arafat against stopping their attacks on Israelis. Mr. Arafat has handled the groups gingerly, in fear that a get-tough policy could shatter support in Gaza for the shaky Palestinian government.

While Israel and the PLO differ on how to handle Hamas, they agreed in Alexandria to work to persuade the international community to more quickly deliver funds to the Palestinian Authority.

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