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Palestinians Dispute Political Committees, Form Gaza City Council

November 17, 1991

JERUSALEM (AP) _ Gaza City Palestinians prepared to take control of their municipality for the first time in a decade as Palestinian leaders Sunday criticized Arab leadership bodies springing up in the occupied territories.

The readiness by Gazans to form a broad-based city council, and the rift over the so-called ″political committees,″ appeared to be an outgrowth of new cooperation that arose from the Madrid peace conference two weeks ago.

Israel renewed its offer of Palestinian self-government at the talks.

The committees appear to be the work of Palestinians who want to pursue self-government aggressively. Yet they have been criticized as premature and badly organized.

Some Palestinian hard-liners contend that self-rule will undermine their ultimate goal of an independent Palestinian state.

In a leaflet distributed throughout the occupied territories Saturday, the Yasser Arafat-led Fatah faction of the Palestine Liberation Organization urged Palestinians to dismantle the committees, saying they lay ″outside the path of the struggle.″

Ghassan Khatib, a member of the Palestinian delegation to Madrid, on Sunday said the way the committees were formed was not ″designed and organized″ to help his delegation.

However, Ziad Abu Ziad, who served on the Palestinian advisory team to Madrid and was instrumental in setting up the political committees, said they ″were initiated by people from inside the occupied territories and their aim is to support the peace process.″

″I do not think that this aim contradicts any Palestinian individual, group or organization,″ Abu Ziad said in an interview Sunday.

Some 100 Palestinians have been appointed to the committees in the past two weeks, but starting at the end of last week about a dozen resigned, citing personal reasons.

Israeli authorities disbanded the Gaza City municipal council in 1981, claiming it was uncooperative and too influenced by the PLO.

Hanan Rubin, spokesman for the Civil Administration that rules the occupied territories, said Israel had been discussing the transfer of rule for over a year, but that the Palestinians had balked.

″I think they are feeling that there is in the air now an acceptance for what they will do,″ Rubin said, adding that the move was not a step toward self-government.

Fayez Abu Rahme, a pro-PLO attorney and proposed head of the council, said he hoped to form the council by the end of the week and that the list of council nominees would be submitted to Israel for approval.

In other developments:

-Police Minister Roni Milo on Sunday denied Israeli radio reports that police recommended prosecuting Palestinian negotiator Hanan Ashrawi for allegedly meeting with PLO officials.

″Police Minister Milo said the decision to stand Ashrawi on trial was up to the state prosecution and the attorney general,″ said Police Ministry spokeswoman Tami Paul-Cohen.

A 1986 law forbids Israelis to meet PLO officials. Health Minister Ehud Olmert has pointed out that Mrs. Ashrawi is not an Israeli citizen.

Police based their recommendation to prosecute Mrs. Ashrawi mainly on an interview with Jordan Television in which she allegedly acknowledged that she met with PLO officials, radio reports said. They did not give a date for the interview.

Ms. Ashrawi, however, has denied meeting with senior PLO officials.

-Israel’s Postal Authority said it would renovate the 14 Gaza Strip post offices. It said they were technologically 20 years behind Israel.

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