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August 04, 1989 - Image 30

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-08-04

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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30

FRIDAY, AUGUST 4, 1989

n last year's Knesset
election, Yitzhak Shamir
ran on the campaign
slogan: "Only the Likud can
do it." "It" meant making
peace with the Arabs, as his
predecessor, Menachem
Begin, did with Egypt, a
decade earlier. But last week,
when it was disclosed that
Prime Minister Shamir has
been conducting exploratory
meetings with local Palestin-
ians close to Yassir Arafat,
the slogan took on a new,
ironic meaning; it now ap-
pears that the normally
hardline prime minister is do-
ing the unthinkable "it" of
Israeli politics — negotiating,
if only indirectly, with the
Palestinian Liberation
Organization.
This is, indeed, something
that only the right-wing
Likud could do. Talks with
the PLO have long been an
Israeli political taboo, par-
ticularly for the hawkish
Shamir and his party. Several
years ago, a young political
activist named Moshe
Amirav was drummed out of
the Likud for meeting with
Sari Nuesseba and other PLO
supporters in the West Bank.
Now, more than a year and a
half after the start of the in-
tifada, it is clear that Shamir
himself has been doing
precisely the same thing.
The meeting that focused
attention on this new develop-
ment was with Jamil Tarifi, a
prominent West Bank at-
torney known as a strong sup-
porter of the PLO. In the 1976
West Bank mayoral elections,

Editor's Note: We are proud
to introduce Ze'ev Chafets as
our newest Israel
correspondent, who will be
writing exclusively for The
Jewish News and its sister
publications in Atlanta and
Baltimore. Chafets, who grew
up in Pontiac, Michigan, has
been living in Israel since
1967. He is a former director
of the Israel Government
Press Office and is the author
of three books: Double Vision:
How the Press Distorts
America's View of the Middle
East; Heroes and Hustlers,
Hard Hats and Holy Men:
Inside the New Israel; and
Members of the Tribe: On the
Road in Jewish America.

Tarifi was disqualified by
Israeli authorities because of
his close ties to the PLO
leadership. By meeting with
him, Shamir has aroused
suspicions that he is using
Tarifi to talk to Yassir Arafat.
The Prime Minister has
denied that his conversation
with Tarifi, or with other
prominent Palestinians,
amount to indirect negotia-
tions with the PLO. "None of
the people with whom I
talked said they had received
permission from the PLO," he
told interviewers on Moked,
the Israeli Meet the Press. "If
they had mentioned that
name, I would have stopped
the talks." Shamir maintains
that he is merely trying to
find local Palestinian leaders
as an alternative to the PLO.

Shamir's closest
advisers fear that
a confrontation
may well be
unavoidable.

For his part, Tarifi was cir-
cumspect about the meeting,
but conceded that his discus-
sion with Shamir was, indeed,
an oblique Israeli approach to
the Palestinian leadership in
Tunisia. Yassir Arafat was
more explicit, saying that
Tarifi had spoken to Shamir
"with the knowledge and ap-
proval of the PLO leadership."
Arafat's statement embar-
rassed the Prime Minister,
both at home and abroad,
where Israeli diplomats are
trying hard to convince
American Jewry and the U.S.
government to refrain from
contacts with the PLO.
Shamir's supporters tried to
differentiate between PLO
loyalists in the West Bank
and Gaza, and the organiza-
tion itself. "The Palestinians
in Tunis have bloody hands,"
said Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Security Chairman
Eliahu Ben Elissar. "Those in
Nablus and Ramallah do
not."
This distinction is uncon-
vincing, particularly since
Israel is clearly in indirect
contact with Arafat via
another route — the Amer-
ican-PLO dialogue, now in its
eighth month. Although
Israel's official position is
that it has no interest in the
talks, Defense Minister Yit-

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