Tags: Israel: | Arafat's | Op-Ed | Piece | Move

Israel: Arafat's Op-Ed Piece A PR Move

Sunday, 03 February 2002 12:00 AM

"No degree of oppression and no level of desperation can ever justify the killing of innocent civilians," Arafat wrote. "I condemn terrorism. I condemn the killing of innocent civilians, whether they are Israeli, American or Palestinian."

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon described Arafat's article as a public relations move, adding that the Palestinian leader must take real action to stop terror, not just put up with words.

"You don't fight terror with words in the New York Times," Sharon's media advisor Raanan Gissin told United Press International. "That is not what will get him out of the tough spot in which he is now."

The high-profile declaration appeared as Arafat gave instructions to Palestinian officials and negotiators to continue contacts with Sharon and other Israeli authorities, official Palestinian sources said. According to reports Friday, top Palestinian Authority officials -- but not Arafat --secretly met three days ago with Sharon in Jerusalem.

The meeting, confirmed for UPI by both Palestinian and Israeli sources, is the first since Sharon took office a year ago.

Arafat's absence at the high-level meeting has left some analysts speculating that Sharon is sounding senior Palestinian officials to see if the two sides can engage in meaningful talks without involving Arafat.

The elected leader of the Palestinian Authority hastened Saturday to dispel such conjecture. After publicly issuing orders to continue such meetings, he assured a group of Arab and Israeli peace activists that resolution would come "sooner or later," adding the Israeli visits give him the hope Israel "is a peace partner."

Nevertheless, in his New York Times op-ed, Arafat repeated Palestinian accusations that Sharon is "fanning the flames of unrest in an effort to delay indefinitely a return to negotiations."

"Israeli government practices of settlement construction, home demolitions, political assassinations, closures and shameful silence in the face of Israeli settler violence and other daily humiliations are clearly not aimed at calming the situation," Arafat said.

But he stated in two places in the piece that, "I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups," he continued, "do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations and I am determined to put an end to their activities."

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Yaffa Ben-Ari, told UPI Arafat's words are nice but "they are shooting out there. As long as there is violence and terror in the field, all the nice words are worthless." Ben-Ari said Arafat must disarm the terrorist organizations, arrest terrorists and cease incitement "to move from confrontation to compromises."

Arafat wrote in the Times piece that, "Condemnations do not stop terrorism. To stop terrorism, we must understand that terrorism is simply the symptom, not the disease."

The Palestinians, he said, have a vision of "a warm peace between two equals enjoying mutually beneficial economic and social cooperation." He said that, "When Israel sees Palestinians as equals, and not as a subjugated people upon whom it can impose its will, such a vision can come true. Indeed it must."

In an incident on Sunday, Palestinians fired at the southern Jerusalem neighborhood of Giloh and planted charges that caused neither damage nor injuries, Israeli military sources said.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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No degree of oppression and no level of desperation can ever justify the killing of innocent civilians, Arafat wrote. I condemn terrorism. I condemn the killing of innocent civilians, whether they are Israeli, American or Palestinian. A spokesman for Israeli Prime...
Sunday, 03 February 2002 12:00 AM
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