JERUSALEM, Dec 7, 01 (FIDES/ - Father David
Jaeger, a Franciscan expert in Vatican-Israeli relations,
has told the Fides news service that Israel must negotiate
with Yasser Arafat, since the PLO leader is the only
authentic representative of the Palestinian people.

"A nation cannot de-legitimate the head of another nation,"
Father Jaeger told Fides. Acknowledging that Israeli leaders
have serious reservations about Arafat, he observed: "Today,
Palestine's leader is Arafat-- elected and recognized by the
Palestinian institutions, just as Sharon is for Israel."

The Franciscan priest also pointed out that Israeli
government policies toward the Palestinian Authority are
contradictory. "For example," he said," over the past few
days the government ordered strikes on the Palestinian
security forces offices-- only to demand that the national
Palestinian Authority use these same security forces to
arrest terrorists."

Father Jaeger said that some Palestinians are now attracted
by more radical groups such as Hamas because they see so
little progress in negotiations toward a peace agreement.
"There is no doubt," he insisted, "that as soon as light is
seen at the end of the tunnel, followers of Hamas and
similar Israeli extremists will soon diminish."