Palestinian leaders drop Israel destruction stanceDecember 14, 1998
Web posted at: 11:26 a.m. EST (1626 GMT)
GAZA CITY, Gaza (CNN) -- In the presence of U.S. President Bill Clinton, Palestinian leaders on Monday reaffirmed the nullification of clauses in the charter of the Palestine Liberation Organization calling for Israel's destruction.
Israel quickly accepted the Palestinian move, according to a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Following a speech in which Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat emphasized the Palestinians' commitment to peace with Israel, council representatives showed their support for the repeal through a nearly unanimous show of hands.
Following Arafat's speech, Clinton, the first U.S. president to visit Palestinian territory, addressed the assembly.
More than 450 members of the Palestine National Council attended the meeting, along with hundreds of other Palestinian notables, including former guerrilla fighters and suspected terrorists.
The PNC meeting was one of the requirements of the Wye River peace accord that Clinton helped negotiate. The accord says the delegates are to "reaffirm" a letter from Arafat to Clinton in which he lists the clauses of the PLO founding charter that are considered null and void.
Clinton and Arafat were given a standing ovation by the delegates when they entered the Shawa Center in Gaza City.
However, the vote did not ensure that the success of the peace process. Israel has already said it would not pull back troops on Friday, as required under the Wye accord, even if the PNC session met its expectations. Netanyahu says the Palestinians also need to stop West Bank violence and publicly withdraw from plans to declare a state in May 1999.
One of the delegates, former guerrilla fighter Bassam Abu Sharif, said the Palestinians were committed to peace.
"We are serious and willing to go ahead and achieve peace for both Israel and the Palestinians," said Abu Sharif, who plotted airplane hijackings in the 1970s and recruited the terrorist "Carlos the Jackal."
Others in the audience included Mohammed Oudeh, implicated by Israeli and American intelligence experts in planning the hostage-taking at the 1972 Munich Olympics that left 11 Israeli athletes dead.
Most of the delegates were middle-aged men in dark suits, many of them graying and balding. Some wore gold-embroidered caps of the Palestinian security forces, others traditional white head dresses.
In an effort to get the message across, the Palestinian Authority permitted both Israeli TV stations to broadcast live from the Shawa Center and Israeli reporters to move freely to interview delegates.
In Jerusalem, legislators crowded around a TV set in the cafeteria of Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to watch the proceedings.
Reuters contributed to this report.
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