Rabin backs elections in Palestinian territories


TEL AVIV, Israel -- Yitzhak Rabin described yesterday his plans for a new era in relations with the Palestinians who have lived under Israeli control for 25 years.

He said he supports general elections in the occupied territories, and he promised to reach an agreement within one year "to let Palestinians run all of their daily activities."

That would be a marked change in government policies that now keep severe authoritarian controls over almost every aspect of the lives of 1.7 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Mr. Rabin, whose election victory was made official yesterday, said he believes Palestinians should hold a vote to "choose from themselves, by themselves, their representation for the [peace] negotiations, or the body that will serve as the self-rule, administrative council, self-governing authority."

The current Likud-led government of Yitzhak Shamir has rejected general elections in the territories and broad self-rule by Palestinians.

In a news conference with foreign journalists, Mr. Rabin said he supports the Camp David accords, from which the Shamir government consistently has distanced itself.

Under those accords, he said, "Israel is committed internationally to let the Palestinians run all their daily affairs" with four exceptions: military defense matters, foreign affairs, Jewish settlements and control of borders.

By contrast, Mr. Shamir acknowledged in an interview with an Israeli newspaper yesterday that he would have deliberately tried to stall the peace negotiations in order to increase Jewish settlements in the Arab areas.

"I would have carried on autonomy talks for 10 years, and meanwhile we would have reached half a million people" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, he told the newspaper Maariv. Under his government, about 100,000 Jewish settlers moved into those territories.

Since Israel won the territories in the 1967 war, it has weaved a tight web of controls around daily life of the Palestinians.

To get a car driver's license or permission to build a room on a house, for example, Palestinians must go through what they describe with bitter irony as the "seven stations."

They must secure from at least seven different Israeli agencies approval to apply for the permission. The approval is denied if, for example, their name is on a secret "security" list of the military or if they have not paid the often-extreme taxes or even if a relative has run afoul of authorities.

Mr. Rabin said giving more power to the Palestinians will discourage the violence of the "intifada" uprising and encourage them to make peace.

"One of my purposes of having general elections within the territories . . . [is to] give the residents of the territories a stronger moral and political strength," he said.

"I believe that many of them -- I'm not saying all of them -- are more interested, more eager to reach an agreement than those outside the territories," he said, in a reference to the Palestine Liberation Organization based in Tunis, Tunisia.

"The Palestinians suffered a lot from their leadership," he said. "Their leadership aspired to everything, and they have . . . left the Palestinians with nothing."

Leaders of the Palestinian peace talks delegation remained in Amman, Jordan, yesterday after meetings with PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. But their comments there agreed with the remarks of Mr. Rabin.

"If brutal measures are lifted, people will begin to see there is genuine progress, and I think [violence] will diminish," spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi told Reuters.

"The Israeli public has realized that the Likud policies of more suppression, more brutality, iron-fist policies . . . have not worked. On the contrary, they created reactions," she said.

But Mr. Rabin left no doubt he intends to respond to violence in the territories with force.

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