IN A sweeping gesture designed to win favour with Israel, Yasser Arafat, the PLO Chairman, announced in Paris yesterday that he will convene the PLO's ruling council in Gaza 'within months' to vote on removing anti-Zionist elements from its charter.
If the meeting goes ahead it will be the first time the 482- member Palestine National Council which is, in effect, the Palestinian parliament, has convened in Palestine.
Amendment of the charter, which demands a two-thirds majority of the PNC, was a condition of the Oslo accords, and Israel has repeatedly pressed Mr Arafat to fulfil his obligation.
The Palestinian national charter, adopted by the PLO in 1968, calls for the destruction of Israel, and is hardly in keeping with the PLO's new pro-peace platform. 'Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine,' says article 9 of the charter, which includes Israel in its definition of Palestine.
Mr Arafat's announcement cheered the Israelis, who agreed with the PLO at their Paris meeting that talks on applying self-rule to the rest of the West Bank will start in Cairo on Monday.
However, the news found a mixed reaction from Palestinian leaders. For many, a PNC meeting in Gaza would confirm that the PLO's 'revolutionary exile' is over.
Others would see a vote to revise the charter as the ultimate betrayal of Palestinian refugees who fled during the Arab-Israeli wars from Israel proper. Some Palestinians suggested yesterday that Mr Arafat could not be guaranteed a two-thirds majority.
The main difficulty, however, will surround the naming of Palestinian PNC representatives from inside the occupied territories. In one of the many anomalies of Palestinian politics, the 181 seats on the PNC reserved for Palestinians from inside the West Bank and Gaza have never been filled, as membership of the PLO was always outlawed by Israel.
HEBRON - Palestinian guerrillas killed a 20-year-old Israeli soldier and a 17-year- old Jewish settler girl in separate West Bank attacks, the army and settlers said yesterday, Reuter reports. The attacks, apparently carried out by opponents of Israel's peace moves with the PLO, followed Mr Arafat's formal establishment of Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza and Jericho enclaves this week.
Conor Cruise O'Brien, page 16
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