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Thursday, November 13, 2003

Israel wary of Arafat Overtures

Arafat with new Palestinian cabinet, sworn in Wednesday evening in Ramallah
Jerusalem (CNSNews.com) - Israel expressed its skepticism about Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat's call for an end to violence -- but said that it would give the new PA Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia and his government a chance to combat terror.

The Palestinian Legislative Council was meeting in Ramallah on Wednesday to approve Qureia's new government.

Both Israel and the U.S. have expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that Arafat will maintain control over the security forces as head of a National Security Council. They also doubt that the new prime minister will be able to combat terror adequately under him.

Speaking to the PLC on Wednesday, Arafat accused Israel of waging a "criminal war" against the Palestinians but called on the Israeli people to believe him that he really wants peace.

"We do not deny the right of the Israeli people to live in security side by side with the Palestinian people also living in their own independent state," Arafat said.

Arafat charged that the Israeli government "spreads lies" about the Palestinians that they don't want peace. "I want to talk here to the Israeli people to say in public and in Arabic that this is not true," Arafat said.

(Israel and the international community have long charged that Arafat gives one message to the West in English but transmits an entirely different message to his own people in Arabic.)

"Instead of total destruction of our people and land, the time has come between us and you Israelis, and listen to me Israelis, to get out of this cycle of destructive war," he said.

But Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said Israel no longer trusted Arafat's promises.

"We have heard Chairman Arafat say so many things in the past and he didn't even implement one of his commitments or his promises in the past," Shalom told reporters in Jerusalem prior to a meeting with visiting Slovakian Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda.

"After he signed the Oslo Accords, he sent a letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister, he said then that he will never use again the tool of terrorism and violence against Israel in order to achieve his aims or his goals.

"And since then he brought all the phenomena of suicide bombers. He was involved with all the terrorist attacks that were carried out here in Israel," Shalom said.