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Ha'aretz, November 9, 1999

Barak put on the defensive in Paris over his interpretation of UN Resolution 242

By Dov Alfon


PARIS - Prime Minister Ehud Barak's meetings in Paris yesterday turned out to be the opening shots in negotiations over a permanent agreement with the Palestinians due to remarks attributed to Barak over United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338.

A brouhaha erupted after Danny Yatom, a top Barak adviser, said in a radio interview that Barak told his cabinet on Sunday that he regarded 242 and 228 as having no standing in the West Bank.

As a result, Barak found himself on the defensive and was asked over and over again by leaders he met whether he had said that Israel would ignore 242, which was adopted by the Security Council in November 1967 and broadly calls for the exchange of land for peace. All day long, Barak was forced to repeat that Israel had no plans of ignoring 242 but that it interpreted the resolution differently from the Palestinians.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was quick to complain about Israel's supposed denunciation of 242 and raised the issue at every opportunity in his meetings at the Socialist International, the ostensible reason for Arafat's and Barak's presence in Paris. Arafat himself, in his days as a guerrilla leader, rejected 242 for years because part of the resolution reaffirmed Israel's right to exist.

Arafat and Barak are due to meet in Paris today.

Arafat told a press conference that Barak "should also not forget that the Oslo agreement was accepted according to 242. The Sharm el Sheikh agreement which he signed also was, clearly and obviously," he said after hour-long talks with French President Jacques Chirac.

Both Israel and the Palestinians have agreed that 242 would serve as a basis for a final settlement, but their interpretations have always differed. Israel has long viewed the English-language version of the resolution, drafted by then-British ambassador to the United States Lord Caradon, as definitive. It calls for the withdrawal of Israeli forces "from territories" occupied in the 1967 war. The French version, favored by the Arabs, calls for withdrawal "from the territories," implying all occupied territory.

Barak distanced himself from the bedrock UN resolution, telling reporters in Paris: "It's clear that Resolution 242 has a different meaning when it comes to countries like Egypt, or Syria, for that matter.

"Of course, it applies to the whole process, but the context is different where the original war has not been over any borders whose basis is the exchange of land for peace," he said.

His Jerusalem office issued a statement saying, "The prime minister stands by the position that Resolution 242 is applicable to the negotiations with the Palestinians, and it is clear that it is included in agreements. But its relevance to the negotiations is different from its relevance to the negotiations on other fronts." The reference to "other fronts" appeared to be a reference to possible negotiations with Syria.

Barak met yesterday with Chirac. Barak and Arafat arrived in Paris just after Bashar Assad, the son and heir of Syrian President Hafez Assad, left. Earlier hopes that the Socialist International meeting might serve as a backdrop for renewed Syrian-Israeli contacts faded yesterday, with Israeli and French diplomats stressing the importance of the Palestinian track for reaching peace.

Barak also met yesterday with leaders of Italy, Argentina and Portugal. He is expected to meet today with Moroccan leaders.


(c) copyright 1999 Ha'aretz. All Rights Reserved


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