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'Ball Now in U.S. Court': Arafat : But Washington Rejects Declared Palestinian State

November 15, 1988|From Associated Press

ALGIERS, Algeria — Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat today said the proclamation of an independent Palestinian state by the PLO's parliament-in-exile now puts "the ball . . . in the American court."

But in Washington, the Reagan Administration rejected the PLO's proclamation, asserting that the Arab-Israeli conflict must be settled by negotiations and not by unilateral acts.

The Palestine National Council made the declaration of Palestinian statehood early today, approving a new political program that indirectly recognizes Israel.

At a news conference later, Arafat described the council meeting as "the \o7 intifada \f7 (uprising) session," referring to 11 months of unrest by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"But it could also be the session of peace with the U.S. Administration and Israel," he said.

". . . Our political statement contains moderation, flexibility and realism, which the West has been urging us to show," Arafat said. "The ball is now in the American court."

Borders Not Specified

Arafat did not describe the new state's borders, except to say that a 1947 U.N. plan that provided for separate Jewish and Arab states in Palestine still provides the basis for "international legitimacy." The Palestinian territory referred to in the declaration presumably meant the West Bank and Gaza, captured by Israel in 1967 Middle East War.

Earlier today, Israeli troops sealed off the West Bank and Gaza Strip, where Arab youths took to the streets to celebrate the declaration and underground leaders of the Palestinian uprising called a general strike.

In the West Bank town of Bethlehem, under curfew for the first time since 1967, teen-agers ignored threats of fines and jail terms to run through the streets setting off fireworks and singing a nationalist song.

In the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, an 18-year-old Palestinian was shot by soldiers but the circumstances were not clear, hospital officials said.

The Palestine Liberation Organization declaration will not necessarily have any immediate effect because the PLO is unable to challenge Israel for actual control, either in the occupied territories or in Israel proper.

In Israel's first official response to the declaration of independence, a Foreign Ministry statement called it "double talk." Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir predicted "political war" with the Palestinians over the declaration.

Envisions New Plan

Shamir was quoted by the daily Yediot Aharonot as saying he will propose a new peace plan to Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Charles E. Redman said the status of the West Bank and Gaza Strip "cannot be determined by unilateral acts of either side but only through a process of negotiations."

"A declaration of independent Palestinian statehood is such a unilateral act," Redman said. A similar statement was issued by White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater.

Fitzwater said that despite U.S. opposition to the proclamation of an independent Palestinian state, the Administration sees "positive elements" to the Palestine National Council meeting in Algiers, most notably its support for U.N. Security Council resolutions 224 and 338. These lay the groundwork for a comprehensive settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Redman said the Administration has not yet seen the final text of the resolution approved by the PNC but promised it will receive serious study.

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