Israelis Unsettled by Imminent Arafat Visit With PM-Palestinian-Hopes And Dreams
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Israelis are coming to terms with Palestinian autonomy and the government has agreed to start talks with the PLO about extending the arrangement throughout the West Bank.
But there is unease over the imminent arrival of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat, long the symbol of terror in Israel. He is expected by the month’s end in Jericho, and may visit Muslim holy sites in Jerusalem.
″People should rise up against him, this bloody murderer,″ said Geula Pollock, whose two teen-age daughters died in a 1984 bus bombing claimed by the PLO. ″After all I’ve gone through, why should I have to look at his face?″ The prospect of Arafat actually setting foot in the area, especially Jerusalem, has even unsettled some Israeli leftists.
Arafat’s continued use of warlike words, such as his call for ″Jihad,″ or holy war, to liberate Jerusalem, doesn’t help blot out memories of the bloodshed, such as the bombing that claimed Mrs. Pollock’s daughters.
The PLO claimed responsibility for the attack the day after Hanukkah in 1984 which killed her daughters, Nurit 14, and Esther, 15. The image of the girls’ bodies, hanging out the bus’ windows, was plastered over front pages and across television news.
A.B. Yehoshua, a writer and philosopher who backs the PLO-Israel peace accord, said Sunday he understands the hesitancy.
″Israelis see Arafat’s postmodern revolutionary codes - that three-day growth on his face, his uniform, his kaffiyeh shaped like a mosque,″ Yehoshua said. ″They see he is strange, unpredictable, funny, unreliable. He needs to start behaving like a leader.″
He suggested Arafat postpone his visit.
″I wouldn’t recommend that Arafat be demonstrative about coming to Jerusalem. It would stall the peace process,″ Yehoshua said. ″ After a couple of months, when Israelis are used to him, he can come to Jerusalem.″
Yehudit Tayar, a spokeswoman for the Settlers’ Council, said Jewish settlers planned massive demonstrations in the West Bank town of Jericho to protest Arafat’s arrival.
Others have threatened stronger measures.
Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Shmuel Meir has offered the city’s top honor, the ″Jerusalem Fellow″ award, to anyone who kills the PLO chief. Hanan Porat, a legislator and a settler, has said he wouldn’t mind seeing Arafat getting ″a bullet in his head.″
Settler leader Aharon Dombe said Sunday that he wrote Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin that he was worried because some extremist settlers were speaking of assassinating Rabin or one of his Cabinet ministers.
Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert promised to rally 500,000 Jews to the city to prevent Arafat from entering Jerusalem. Arafat reportedly wants to pray at the al-Aqsa mosque, which is adjacent to the Western Hall, the last remnant of the ancient Jewish Temple and Judaism’s holiest site.
The army and police have countered the threats against Arafat with reports they would muster 10,000 police officers - more than half the nation’s force - to protect him, and that they would shut the Jericho area to Israelis.
Despite the misgivings about Arafat, a former head of military intelligence, Shlomo Gazit, said the PLO leader could turn Israeli public opinion in his favor by declaring an end to war and terror and giving up claims to land inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders.
″If he wants to be successful, he will have to tread the golden path between (Palestinian and Israeli) sets of expectations,″ Gazit wrote in Sunday’s Jerusalem Post daily.
Peace efforts continued amid the wait for Arafat.
The PLO’s chief negotiator Nabil Shaath and his Israeli counterpart Amnon Shahak, the army’s deputy chief of staff, agreed Sunday to launch talks June 27 on widening autonomy from Gaza and Jericho to the rest of the West Bank.