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Arafat Call for Jihad Could Threaten Full Autonomy With AM-Israel-Unrest, Bjt

May 17, 1994 GMT

JERUSALEM (AP) _ An apparent appeal from PLO chief Yasser Arafat for a ″holy war″ for Jerusalem could stall progress toward full Palestinian autonomy, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Tuesday.

Rabin responded to a tape played by Israel radio, which the station said was a recording of Arafat’s talk at a mosque in Johannesburg, South Africa, on May 10.

″You have to understand our main battle isn’t how much we can achieve from them here or there. Our main battle is Jerusalem,″ said the speaker, who sounds like Arafat.

He said Israel promised in a letter that Jerusalem could be discussed three years from now, when negotiations begin over a permanent settlement between Israel and Palestinians.

″You have to come and to fight and to start a jihad to liberate Jerusalem, the historical shrine. And this is very important,″ the speaker said.

The Arabic word jihad translates into English as holy war, but it is a loose term to define struggle and can mean anything from a political effort to physical violence.

Rabin said the comments violated the peace agreement signed in Cairo, Egypt, on May 4 that led to the implementation of Palestinian self-rule in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank town of Jericho.

″If this is indeed his call, it will put into question the continuation of the process between us and the Palestinians. We will not be able to accept a violation of a PLO commitment not to be involved in violence and terror,″ Rabin said.

A senior U.S. official, briefing reporters in Jerusalem where Secretary of State Warren Christopher completed talks with Rabin, said he was concerned about the effect of Arafat’s statements.

″I think it was totally out of bounds,″ he said. ″That kind of a thing should be a relic from the past.″

An Arafat aide at the Palestine Liberation Organization’s headquarters in Tunis, Tunisia, confirmed the PLO leader went to the Johannesburg mosque to pray but said he did not know whether Arafat made a speech. The aide spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rabin said that in the accord with the PLO, Israel agreed that the issue of Jerusalem, which is holy to Jews, Christians and Muslims, could be raised when negotiations on a permanent settlement began.

Israel captured the Arab eastern sector of Jerusalem from Jordan during the 1967 Mideast War and later annexed it as part of its capital. The Palestinians envision east Jerusalem as the capital of the state they hope to create.

Rabin has repeatedly said giving up east Jerusalem is not up for negotiation.

On the question of Jerusalem, unlike the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israelis are almost unanimous in opposing territorial concessions. Still fresh in their minds is pre-1967 Israel, when Jordanians banned Jews from their most holy site, the Western Wall.

Following the broadcast of the tape, opposition parties demanded the government release all secret additions to its autonomy agreement with the PLO. Rabin has denied there are any secret agreements.

The leader of the conservative opposition Likud bloc, Benjamin Netanyahu, criticized the government for not ″immediately responding by suspending the talks.″

Members of Rabin’s Labor faction in Parliament also protested the jihad comments.