- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 5, 2002

JERUSALEM A former Palestinian Cabinet minister, in an unusual act of public criticism, wrote in a letter to Yasser Arafat that the Palestinians missed a rare opportunity for peace two years ago by rejecting a deal brokered by President Clinton.
Nabil Amr also called for an end to corruption inside the Palestinian Authority, a halt to suicide bombings and greater debate inside Palestinian society.
"Didn't we throw mud in the face of Bill Clinton, who dared to propose a state with some adjustments?" wrote Mr. Amr in a letter that appeared in the Al-Hayat al-Jadeedah newspaper, which reflects the views of the Palestinian Authority.
"Were we honest about what we did? Were we right in what we did? No, we were not. After two years of violence, we are now calling for what we rejected."
Public criticism of Mr. Arafat among the Palestinians is rare and Mr. Amr's letter comes amid heavy pressure on the Palestinian Authority for internal reform.
Violence that broke out after the peace talks failed two years ago has killed hundreds of people on both sides. Responding to a spate of suicide bombings, the Israeli army has clamped down hard in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, imposing sweeping travel bans and confining hundreds of thousands of people to their homes for days at a time. The result has been economic collapse in the Palestinian territories.
"We need a new policy. We need a real and serious dialogue among the Palestinians. And we need real reform," Mr. Amr said.
"I sent a message to [Mr. Arafat] as a leader, and asked him not to leave, but to change his policies, his programs, everything," he said.
The prevailing view in Israel is that the violence can be traced to Mr. Arafat's rejection of the U.S.-brokered peace offer that Israel says included a Palestinian state on 95 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and Palestinian sovereignty over parts of Arab east Jerusalem.
Israel accuses Mr. Arafat of stoking the violence and now refuses to deal with him. That position has been bolstered by President Bush, who has called for a new Palestinian leadership and sweeping reforms inside the Palestinian Authority.
Mr. Amr is a member of the Palestinian legislature. He resigned as minister for parliamentary affairs three months ago in what he said was an attempt to encourage debate inside Palestinian society.
Meanwhile, Israel expelled two Palestinians from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip yesterday, a day after the Israeli Supreme Court sanctioned such measures. It marked the first time Israel has uprooted relatives of Palestinian terror suspects.
Intisar and Kifah Ajouri brother and sister of an explosives expert who had dispatched two suicide bombers to Tel Aviv said they were blindfolded by Israeli troops, driven in two armored vehicles into Gaza and dropped in an orchard an area where four Palestinian civilians were killed by army fire last week.
The Israeli military said the two had each been given the equivalent of $212 as an "adjustment grant" for their two-year exile in Gaza.
Also yesterday, two homemade bombs were found near a home owned by former Prime Minister Ehud Barak in the town of Cochav Yair, near the West Bank, police said.


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