SIDON, Lebanon — A Palestinian Cabinet minister said Friday that the 5-month-old uprising against Israel was planned after peace talks failed in July, contradicting contentions it was a spontaneous outburst by Palestinians.
Communications Minister Imad Falouji said during a PLO rally that it was a mistake to think the uprising, in which more than 400 people have been killed, was sparked by Israeli Prime Minister-elect Ariel Sharon's visit to the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in late September.
Instead, he said it was planned after the failure of the summit at Camp David, Md. At that time, then-President Clinton pressed Yasser Arafat to make concessions — particularly on the right of return — in response to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak's willingness to surrender some Jerusalem neighborhoods to the Palestinians. Barak's step is widely viewed as contributing to Sharon's election victory.
"It had been planned since Chairman Arafat's return from Camp David, when he turned the tables in the face of the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions," Falouji said.
His remarks contrast with previous Palestinian statements blaming Sharon's visit to the mosque compound for sparking a spontaneous uprising by Palestinians frustrated by the peace process and ripe for an explosion. Israel long has contended the uprising was planned.
Falouji, a former activist in the Islamic militant Hamas, did not elaborate on the planning or who was involved.
At a Palestine Liberation Organization rally at the Ein el-Hilweh refugee camp on the southern edge of this port city, Falaouji also said the PLO is reviving its "military action" groups to escalate the fighting against Israel.
"The PLO is going back to the 60s, 70s and 80s. The Fatah Hawks, the Kassam Brigades, the Red Eagle and all the military action groups are returning to work," he told a cheering crowd of nearly 2,500 people, including local Palestinian leaders.