'Hawatmeh seeks to stay in West Bank'

DFLP leader reportedly hopes to get PA I.D.; PM okays visit for PLO meeting.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
The Damascus-based leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP) wants to stay in the West Bank indefinitely, not just to attend Wednesday's PLO assembly meeting, a top DFLP official told Israel Radio on Sunday. The official also said that the DFLP leader wished to move back to the West Bank with his family and obtain a Palestinian identity card. On Sunday, Israel approved letting Hawatmeh enter the West Bank to attend the meeting, a spokesman said. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said that Hawatmeh will be allowed to stay in the West Bank only for a few days. Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas has called a meeting this week of the Palestine Liberation Organization's Central Council to support him in his struggle against the Islamist Hamas organization. Hawatmeh's trip to Ramallah would be his first to the West Bank since the Six Day War. The DFLP, a Marxist-Leninist group, was founded in 1969. After Jordan expelled the PLO in 1970, the DFLP operated out of Lebanon, then Syria. One of the group's most notorious attacks was the raid on a school in Ma'alot in 1974, when a squad of DFLP terrorists took over a school filled with dozens of children on a field trip from Safed. Twenty-six people, most of them children, were killed in the attack. Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i said on Friday that Israel should allow Hawatmeh into Ramallah since this could help strengthen Abbas in face of the growing Hamas threat in the Gaza Strip. Vilna'i said that since Hawatmeh wouldn't be entering Israel and would only be in the West Bank for a short time, Israel should allow him to visit. "Even though he was a man who dealt in terror, under the current circumstances he appears to be someone who can assist in shifting the balance in favor of the moderate Palestinian front," Vilna'i said. Environment Minister Gideon Ezra said he was in favor of letting the DFLP leader visit the West Bank. He said that Israel must help the PA "in every move against Hamas." Construction and Housing Minister Ze'ev Boim, however, opposed Hawatmeh's possible arrival, saying that Israel had a "bloody score to settle with the man responsible for the slaughter in Ma'alot." Israel Beiteinu's Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Saturday, according to Israel Radio, that Israel should let Hawatmeh enter so that he could then be arrested and tried for murder.