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Arafat blasts Israel's deal with renegade settlers

Arafat

Tells Arab League that Israel using 'lowest means'

September 20, 1997
Web posted at: 7:32 p.m. EDT (2332 GMT)

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- An angry Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, trying to rally support among other Arab leaders, said Saturday that Israel was resorting to "the lowest means" to try to assert control over historically Arab east Jerusalem.

In a speech to the Arab League in Cairo, Arafat also called on Arab countries to "link the normalization of ties (with Israel) to progress on the peace process on all tracks."

Arab and Israeli officials are scheduled to meet at an upcoming economic conference in Qatar to discuss including more integration of Israel with other Middle Eastern economies. Some Arab officials are now saying such normalization should be put on hold.

vxtreme CNN's James Martone reports

Arafat was angered by a deal between Israel and a group of renegade Jewish settlers who last week set up housekeeping in the predominately Arab Ras al-Amoud neighborhood of east Jerusalem in defiance of the Israeli government.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to evict the settlers. After negotiations, they agreed to leave -- but only after Israeli officials agreed to let a group of Jewish seminary students stay on as security guards.

Arafat has called the deal between the settlers and the Israeli government a trick. Palestinians oppose Jewish settlement in east Jerusalem, which they hope will someday be the capital of a Palestinian state.

"Over the past few days we have been witnessing the farce of the occupation of Palestinian houses in Ras al-Amoud by settlers, and the procrastination of the Israeli government in handling this issue," Arafat told the Arab League's foreign ministers.

"We need practical, political and economic ... efforts to protect these sacred places from the dangers of Judaization, expansion and control.

"(Israel) is resorting to the lowest means in order to achieve its aims," Arafat said.

Arafat accused the Israeli government was trying to assert its control over Jerusalem through settlement plans, forging of property documents, confiscation of Palestinian identity cards and closure of occupied territories.

Some Arab leaders have suggested that the Qatar economic conference, due to be held in November, be linked to Israel reaffirming its peace pledges.

"Normalization is not possible without peace. If normalization comes before, we've lost our Arab card," said Lebanese Foreign Minister Faris Bouez.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa said the ministers meeting in Cairo resolved that each country would decide for itself whether to take part in the summit.

Arafat: United States should do more

In his remarks Saturday, Arafat also called on the United States to make greater efforts to save the Middle East peace process, including supporting the creation of a Palestinian state.

Arafat said he welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's visit to the region earlier this month but he wanted more from the United States.

Clash

"We stress that Albright's visit should be continued by American efforts ... to overcome obstacles," Arafat said.

He asked for "the support of the U.S. administration for the creation of a Palestinian state."

In east Jerusalem on Saturday, dozens of Palestinian school children clashed with Israeli police on Saturday in a protest against the deal with the Ras al-Amoud settlers.

Arafat is due to visit Europe next week to seek help in persuading Israel to halt actions such as settlement expansion that eroded confidence in the peace process.

Correspondent James Martone and Reuters contributed to this report.

 
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