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Home > News & Politics > Israel > Barak, Arafat to go to Washington




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Barak, Arafat to go to Washington
Prime minister urges peace during rally

By NAOMI SEGAL
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
November 6, 2000

JERUSALEM—Israeli and Palestinian leaders have agreed to attend separate talks in Washington with President Clinton in an effort to calm the situation in the territories and find a way back to negotiations.

The two separate meetings with Clinton-and Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat on Thursday and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak next Sunday-are once again reviving hopes that a way can be found out of the violence that has wracked the region since late September.

But ongoing clashes in the territories, combined with the assessment of Israeli security officials that Arafat continues to use violence for political gain, underscored the volatility and fragility of the situation.

Briefing the Israeli Cabinet at its weekly meeting Sunday, top security officials said Arafat appears to be operating on two tracks-pursuing political gain through violence and maintaining his international standing by participating in diplomatic dialogue.

The Cabinet meeting came the morning after an estimated 150,000 people took part in a memorial rally in Tel Aviv to mark the fifth anniversary of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination by a right-wing student.

With the ongoing violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip hanging over the event, Barak made a plea for peace at the rally, held in the square where Rabin was gunned down.

Barak urged Arafat not to let extremists lead Israelis and Palestinians "on a path of pain and suffering."

The premier also vowed to "turn over stone, seek every path and every way" to peace.

The violence in the territories has led some to question whether Rabin should ever have embarked on the Oslo peace process.

Reflecting this uncertainty about his legacy, images of Rabin together with Arafat-including their historic handshake when the first Oslo accord was signed on the White House lawn in September 1993 -- were omitted from a biographical film screened at a memorial gathering organized by the Labor Party last Friday.

Sources in the party said there was no directive from above to edit out the footage, but it was understood that in light of the ongoing violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, it was preferable not to have prominent images of Arafat in the film, according to the Israeli daily Ma'ariv.

At Sunday's Cabinet meeting, security officials noted that while the intensity of clashes has diminished somewhat since the two sides reached a cease-fire agreement last week, the violence flared again Saturday night in gun battles between Palestinians and Israeli troops.

The Israel Defense Force's chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Shaul Mofaz, told the ministers that Arafat is not exercising the control he has over the situation on the ground by not reining in such groups as the armed Palestinian militias.

Other officials also said the Palestinian Authority continues to incite against Israel.

They warned of further terror attacks against Israel, citing Palestinian officials' recent decision to release Islamic militants from prison. Last week, two Israelis were killed after a car bomb exploded on a small side street near Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda open-air market.

The security officials also warned the Cabinet that Iran has directed Hezbollah to try to kidnap Israeli civilians and soldiers, and that Iran is trying to recruit people to carry out suicide bombings against Israeli targets.

Clashes continued Sunday, when two Palestinians were shot dead during clashes with Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip. At least 10 Palestinians were wounded in these clashes, and seven were hurt in the West Bank outside Bethlehem.

© JTA Inc., 2000. May not be reproduced without written permission
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