LETTERS: Tall tales from the West Bank

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The Independent Online
From Mrs Helen Davis Sir: Your newspaper appears to suffer a particular difficulty in providing readers with straight, factual reporting on the Middle East peace process. Describing a meeting this week between the PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, and Israel'sforeign Minister, Shimon Peres ("West Bank talks end in failure," 22 December), Sarah Helm declares, without attribution or substantiation: "Palestinians have severe doubts about whether Israel has any serious intention of implementing self-rule in the West Bank." All the reports of Palestinian reaction that I have read in other major papers flatly contradicted The Independent's bold and unqualified assertion.

The Financial Times quotes the chief Palestinian negotiator, Nabil Sha'ath, as saying that the exchange of ideas had been positive. The International Herald Tribune quotes Mr Arafat as saying that progress had been made. The Guardian quotes Saeb Erakat, a member of the Palestinian National Authority in charge of election planning, as saying: "We were more than reassured by the Israelis today, We believed Israel wanted to negotiate a new accord, but now we know they are committed to the original declaration of principles signed in Washington last year."

The sheer weight of evidence, over a protracted period of time, would indicate that you are following your own, quite idiosyncratic agenda, which has little to do with providing your readers with a balanced account of events in the Israeli-Arab arena.

Yours sincerely, HELEN DAVIS Director of British Israel Public Affairs Centre London, EC1

22 December