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Positive Palestinian Response to Israel's New Labor Party Leader - 2002-11-20


The Palestinian leadership has given a positive response to the news that Amram Mitzna, a dovish former general, has become the new leader of Israel's Labor Party. Mr. Mitzna was chosen on Tuesday as Labor's candidate for prime minister in national elections scheduled for January.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat told reporters Wednesday that he is ready to work with Mr. Mitzna in an effort to achieve "the peace of the brave."

Mr. Arafat says that he extends the hand of friendship to Mr. Mitzna, or any other leader elected after January.

The Palestinian leader says he is hopeful that if Mr. Mitzna is elected, the new Labor leader will follow in the footsteps of the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and complete the peace process.

"We are not interfering in this, their [Israel's] internal affairs and we are ready to deal with anyone who will be elected," Mr. Arafat said. "And our hands will be extended for the peace brave, which I had signed with my partner and I hope that Mitzna will follow up the same line of Rabin who was the head of the Labor Party."

The speaker of the Palestinian parliament, Ahmed Qurei'a, says that though Mr. Mitzna has only been on the political scene a short time, he has been able to deliver clear messages on the need to set up a true peace.

Mr. Qurei'a praised the Labor leader for pledging that his first move in office will be to evacuate all Jews and soldiers from the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Cabinet Minister Nabil Shaath, in his reaction to Mr. Mitzna's election, said Israelis should vote for a government that will end the violence and get back to the negotiating table.

"We would like to see a government that offers the Israeli people an alternative to war and to aggression," Mr. Shaath said. "And therefore we would like to see a possible change in the Israeli public's commitment to peace and therefore in its government's commitment to peace."

But opinion polls show that Mr. Mitzna, at this stage at least, has little chance of being elected. According to the polls, the ruling Likud Party is expected to double the number of parliamentary seats it now holds.