"The president also will reassure the PLO leader that the future of Jerusalem is not being prejudged in Israel's agreements with Jordan to give King Hussein a special role in administering Muslim holy sites in the city, the U.S. official said."
October 25, 1994
CAIRO (AP) -- Trying to build up Yasser Arafat and his fledging Palestinian self-rule authority, the Clinton administration is taking a dim view of any long-term fencing out of Palestinian workers by the Israeli government.
U.S. officials accompanying President Clinton on his Middle East trip agree that the recent spate of violence calls for strong measures. But there is growing concern that Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin may make his crackdown an indefinite one.
That, in the view of the Americans, would hurt the Palestinian economy even as it tries to fly on its own in Gaza and in the West Bank town of Jericho -- and would hurt and the prestige of Arafat, the chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, as well.
The ban imposed after the Tel Aviv bus bombing keeps roughly 60,000 Palestinian workers from entering Israel daily. At the same time, the Israeli Cabinet has increased the number of authorized foreign farm and construction workers from 35,000 to 54,000.
This raises questions within the administration whether the Palestinians will ever return in force -- and collect wages needed to boost the economies of Gaza and Jericho.
Israel routinely bans Palestinian workers to respond to terrorism, but the current, open-ended crackdown coincides with increased pressure on Arafat to prevent Hamas from continuing its attacks.
The administration is inclined to share the assessment of the Israeli government that Arafat is approaching a crisis point -- having to decide whether to continue pursuing peace with Israel or to line up with the fundamentalist group, which rejects any accommodation with the Jewish state.
Clinton intends to tell Arafat when they meet in Cairo on Wednesday that the administration is concerned about the stability of the Palestinian authority in Gaza and Jericho.
The State Department spokesman, Michael McCurry, told reporters Arafat and the world at large must move to "thwart and throttle" Hamas.
The president also will reassure the PLO leader that the future of Jerusalem is not being prejudged in Israel's agreements with Jordan to give King Hussein a special role in administering Muslim holy sites in the city, the U.S. official said.
Arafat is boycotting the signing of the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty because he objects to the tilt toward Jordan. He hopes to take over East Jerusalem eventually as a capital for a Palestinian state.
The administration's reservations about the ban on Palestinians entering Israel also may placate the PLO leader.
"We understand the measures Israel takes in moments of high anxiety and tension to make sure they have adequate control of their borders," McCurry said. "But over the long term the permanent closing of the borders causes economic difficulties for the Palestinians and Arafat.
"This is a significant issue."