Hanegbi: DFLP Head Should Be Brought to Court, Not W. Bank

Minister Vilnai: Israel should weigh Abbas request to okay Palestinian militant leader visit to W. Bank.

MK Tzachi Hanegbi (Kadima) slammed reports Saturday of Nawaf Hawatmeh's planned visit to the West Bank, saying the Palestinian militant group leader should be handcuffed upon arrival and taken to a court.

The chairman of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee maintained that the head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine has not rescinded his calls to destroy Israel and that his group is responsible for the 1972 Ma'alot massacre.

During that incident, DFLP militants infiltrated the northern Galilee town from their base in Lebanon and killed 24 citizens, mostly school children shot dead as the Israel Defense Forces launched a botched rescue attempt. The massacre shocked the country, mainly because of the tragic results of the failed operation.

Hanegbi sent a letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, asking him not to allow Hawatmeh to enter the West Bank.

However, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai said on Friday that Israel should give serious consideration to Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' request to allow Hawatmeh to visit the West Bank.

Nawaf Hawatmeh is the founder and leader of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine. He plans to visit the territories next week for the first time in 40 years, according to Nabil Amar, an adviser to Abbas.

Referring to the West Bank, Vilani said, "This is a territory that is not part of Israel. He would come for a defined amount of time, and even though Hawatmeh was involved in terrorism in the past, he currently seems to be able to help tilt the balance of power on the Palestinian front in a sane direction."

The Israeli security establishment still has not decided whether to recommend to the government that Hawatmeh be allowed into the West Bank. Security officials said Friday the recommendation will be made within the next few days, after which the government will make a final decision. Israel has given Hawatmeh permission to return to the territories before- in the 1990s - though he has not taken up the offer.

Hawatmeh, who left the West Bank after the 1967 Six-Day War and lives in Damascus, will be in the West Bank on Wednesday to participate in a meeting of the Palestine Liberation Organization's central council.

The meeting is part of efforts by Abbas to unite the various Palestinian factions against Hamas. Since the Palestinian parliament, which is comprised mostly of Hamas members, has not been functioning since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, Abbas is trying to turn the PLO central council into a kind of replacement for the parliament.

Hawatmeh, a Greek Orthodox Christian, was born in Jordan in 1935. He split off from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in 1968 to set up the DFLP.