Israel plans to legalise meetings with PLO

ISRAEL'S Labour government is taking steps to legalise meetings with representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, it was announced yesterday.

The Justice Ministry said it was drafting an amendment to a 1986 law that forbade contact with the PLO, which Israel has long considered a terrorist organisation.

Yasser Arafat, the PLO chairman, last night welcomed the Israeli move and urged Israel's new government to go further by negotiating directly with the PLO.

Meanwhile in Washington, President George Bush has issued an unofficial invitation to Palestinian leaders from the occupied territories for a meeting in Washington during the forthcoming round of peace talks, according to sources close to the Palestinian peace team.

Faisal Husseini, the leader in the West Bank and Gaza, and Hannan Ashrawi, the spokeswoman for the Palestinian delegation to the peace talks, are expected to accept the invitation. It will be the first meeting between Palestinians and the US President. However, there are fears in the Palestinian camp that the US may use such a meeting to press them into agreeing to Israeli terms for autonomy in the occupied territories.

News of the invitation has emerged as the Israeli Prime Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, meets Mr Bush today at the President's holiday home in Maine in the first US-Israeli summit since Mr Rabin was elected prime minister.

Mr Rabin is hoping that the summit will mark the restoration of friendly relations between the US and Israel and the release of dollars 10bn (pounds 5.2bn) in US loan guarantees, which were frozen because of disagreements between the US and the previous Likud administration. The talks may, however, be marred by the news that the US is prepared to hold direct talks with Palestinian leaders whom the Israeli government prefers to keep at arm's length.

It is understood that the invitation to the Palestinian leaders was made informally by the US Secretary of State, James Baker, during his visit to Jerusalem last month. It is significant that the invitation has been issued in particular to Mr Husseini and Mrs Ashrawi, who are both classified by Israel as east Jerusalem residents.

Israel refused to allow Palestinians residents from east Jersualem to be part of the Palestinian negotiating team, on the grounds that the question of Jerusalem's status should not be on the agenda of the talks. As a result, Mr Husseini and Mrs Ashrawi are not official members of the delegation, although they are the de facto leaders. By agreeing to talk to the two Palestinians, Mr Bush may be attempting to nudge Mr Rabin into taking a more flexible line on the Jerusalem question.

There are high hopes in Israel that Mr Rabin will be able to persuade Mr Bush that the new Labour government has made enough positive moves towards securing Palestinian autonomy in the occupied territories to persuade the President to release loan guarantees, which are much needed to support the stumbling Israeli economy.

Mr Rabin has offered to freeze most Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. The settlement drive by the previous Likud administration was the main reason for the guarantees being withheld. Mr Rabin has said he is committed to achieving autonomy in the occupied territories within nine months. Four weeks of talks on autonomy are due to begin in Washington on 24 August, although both sides are now warning against an early breakthrough.

The Labour government has not offered a total curb on settlements and continues to exclude 'security' settlements, which the Palestinians say is unacceptable. The Israelis and Palestinians remain far apart on the question of the powers of a proposed Palestinian authority during the period of autonomy. Palestinians say they must have a full legislative assembly, while the Israelis say they will agree only to an administrative council.

In addition to seeking a commitment on the loan guarantees in the meeting with Mr Bush today, Mr Rabin will be asking for assurances that the US will continue to ensure the military balance in the Middle East is weighted in Israel's favour. Mr Bush is keen to bring both sides in the peace talks to an early agreement, in order to gain credit for a foreign policy success before the US elections.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key Stage 1

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Phase Co-ordinator for Foundation and Key S...

Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: SEN Teacher We have a fantastic special n...

Tradewind Recruitment: History Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an 11-18 all ability co-educat...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 6 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee