Amid tensions, Arafat telephones Netanyahu
December 15, 1996
Web posted at: 11:00 p.m. EST (1600 GMT)
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat telephoned Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and the two talked about pursuing the peace process, a senior Israeli official said.
Netanyahu adviser David Bar-Illan said Arafat expressed sorrow for the killing of two Israelis last week near Ramallah.
"This was, of course, a welcomed statement, because Israelis have been very upset that neither Arafat nor another Palestinian Authority official had seen fit to express
regret and to condemn the terrorist action," Bar-Illan said.
Bar-Illan said Arafat and Netanyahu promised to resume talks on Hebron, and once that issue is resolved, to continue the peace process as a whole. Peace talks have been stalled by the failure to agree on a timetable for Israeli troops to withdraw from the West Bank town.
Bar-Illan said Arafat promised Netanyahu he would deal with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, based in Damascus, which claimed responsibility for the West Bank killings.
The phone call came after Arafat met with Netanyahu adviser Yitzhak Molcho in Gaza.
Earlier, harsh words
News of the softer words came at the end of another day of public accusations between the two sides.
Netanyahu accused Palestinians of plotting violence against Israel, while Palestine Liberation Organization leaders said Netanyahu's claims were "a big lie" to divert attention from his plans to settle more Jews on occupied Arab land.
Netanyahu said Arafat's Palestinian Authority had been planning unrest even before Friday, when the Israeli cabinet approved generous financial incentives for settlers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Arafat was quoted by an Israeli daily Sunday saying Jewish
settlements were a time bomb -- and Netanyahu had turned to
Netanyahu also criticized Israeli opposition parties, who
have warned the policies he has pursued since taking office
in June will destroy the Arab-Israeli peace process launched
by the previous Labor government in 1991.
Maj. Gen. Abdel-Razek al-Majaydeh, head of Palestinian
security forces in the PLO-ruled Gaza Strip enclave, said the PLO feared the Israeli leader's claims could be a pretext for aggression against Palestinian self-rule areas.
"It's a big lie ... I'm afraid that by this lie they might
carry out aggressive action against the Palestinian
territories and they are using this lie as a pretext,"
Reuters contributed to this report.
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