Arafat, Netanyahu Trade Threats
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Trading recriminations with Yasser Arafat, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today the Palestinian leader violated the peace accords by threatening to declare a Palestinian state and unleash a new uprising against Israel.
Netanyahu said the peace accords would be annulled if Arafat made good on his word. ``If Arafat realizes his threats, the Oslo agreement will be scuttled, not just violated,″ Netanyahu told visiting leaders of the American Jewish Committee.
On Thursday, Arafat delivered a fiery speech coinciding with Israel’s 50th anniversary celebrations. He said the Palestinians would declare an independent state in parts of the West Bank and Gaza Strip next year and not wait for a final peace treaty with Israel.
Arafat also warned of a new Palestinian uprising, or intefadeh, should there be no progress in the negotiations.
Netanyahu said that if Arafat carried out his threats, the Palestinians would throw away an opportunity, as they did 50 years ago when they rejected a U.N. proposal for Jewish and Palestinian states alongside each other and instead attacked the Jewish state.
``I think it will be a terrible shame if the Palestinians again choose violence, as they did in 1948, instead of peace. It will be a terrible shame if they choose to bring disasters on themselves instead of the peace and prosperity which is within our reach, our common reach,″ Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu said he will only honor his commitment to pull back troops in the West Bank if the Palestinians meet a series of Israeli demands, such as reducing the size of their police force and arresting Islamic militants. In a U.S.-brokered peace accord in 1997, Netanyahu had pledged to carry out three withdrawals by this summer, but later said he would only agree to one pullback.
Netanyahu also has said he will not give up West Bank areas he considers important to Israel’s security.