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Arafat Welcomes "Special" Israeli Envoys
ICEJ NEWS - 04/16/2001
Never one to turn down an important meeting, PLO chief Yasser Arafat hosted an unusual pair of Israeli envoys of late, Omri Sharon -the controversial son of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon - and Labor dove Yossi Beilin.
Omri Sharon and Arafat secretly met again last Wednesday in Ramallah, the same day the Palestinian leader welcomed Beilin. It was Omri's second clandestine meeting with Arafat in two weeks. This time, Omri was accompanied by GSS head Avi Dichter, instead of businessman Yossi Ginossar, and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres also was given advance notice of the meeting for a change.
Prime Minister Sharon has come under heavy criticism from the right and left, as well as from Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein, for sending his son as a special go-between with Arafat. Rubinstein last week expressly told Sharon his son must not play a part in talks with the Palestinians. Since news of the latest rendezvous hit the press, Rubinstein has come out even stronger against the practice, saying today he considers it "improper" for the "culture of government we are trying so hard to develop in Israel."
In an interview over the weekend, however, PM Sharon was quoted as saying that the Arabs respect sending "the person closest to you" to deliver a message. He has defended his actions by saying Omri is simply telling Arafat there will be "no negotiations under fire."
Meanwhile, Beilin came out of his audience with Arafat last week and glowingly reported that the Palestinian Authority should still be considered as a partner for peace. Beilin was a Labor party Knesset member and former justice minister in the last government, but voluntarily resigned his seat in parliament due to the cabinet posting. Currently, he is simply a prominent member of Labor.
Beilin said he expressed the frustration and disappointment felt within the Israeli peace camp, which is being pushed toward the unrealistic belief that unilateral separation from the Palestinians is the only option. The peace camp needs to know that a Palestinian partner still exists, Beilin said. "I left with a feeling that we have someone to talk to on the Palestinian side," Beilin insisted afterwards.
While admitting that he is unsure that the violence will end, Beilin said he believes there are those on the Palestinian side who wish to put an end to it. "I can't describe myself as optimistic," Beilin said. "I can see a situation where there is a continuing spiral of violence and a lack of knowledge from both sides on how to end this foolish cycle."
During the meeting, Arafat spoke mainly of the suffering caused his people by recent Israeli actions to defend against Palestinian attacks.
Used with Permission from International Christian Embassy Jerusalem.