Rockefeller Refuses to Either Condemn or Reject the PLO

Vice-President designate Nelson A. Rockefeller neither condemns the Palestine Liberation Organization nor refuses to recognize the terrorist group, a transcript of his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee indicated today. Rockefeller was repeatedly asked to state his views on the PLO by Rep. Joshua Eilberg (D.Pa.) at a confirmation hearing by the Committee on Nov. 21.

Referring to his testimony in a statement issued today by the Religious Action Center of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rockefeller was represented as having “neither expressed personal repugnance for the PLO and for what they stand nor a refusal to recognize them at this time.”

Rabbi David Saperstein, associate director of the Center which is a joint group of the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the UAHC, appealed to Rockefeller for a clarification of his testimony. He noted that “in view of the strong positive attitude toward Israel that Governor Rockefeller has exhibited in the past, I feel sure that he will do so as soon as possible,” according to the UAHC statement.

Rabbi Saperstein said that Rockefeller’s statement “should be a serious point of political and moral concern for the American public, our Congress and the present Administration. Statements in Rockefeller’s analysis of the relationship of the U.S., Israel and the PLO were described as “confusing,” the UAHC said. According to a transcript available at Eilberg’s office, exchanges between Rockefeller and Eilberg included the following:

Eilberg: “What are your feelings about the current situation in the Middle East and would you as President without a mutual agreement with Israel recognize the PLO as the spokesman for the Palestinian people?” Rockefeller: “Again it is like, If you will forgive me, the analogy of the oil depletion allowance. This is, as somebody referred to in connection with me, the tip of the iceberg. This problem is just part of the total, very complex problem….”

Eilberg: “What is your answer? What would your answer be?” Rockefeller: “I would have to talk with the Israelis about how they feel and what are the possibilities of getting some solution. One of the problems–forgive me Mr. Congressman–is that those who are in a position, elected, or have importance, and take positions on some issues, we can effect other people’s opinions and their lives and make it very difficult to negotiate. I might answer your question now but I don’t know what the answer is,”

Eilberg: “Governor, I think it has appeared very clearly in the press that the present leadership of the State of Israel does not recognize or would not deal with the PLO.” Rockefeller: “Not yet.” Eilberg: “And so I am asking you. if you had to face this question at this time–what would your answer be?”

Rockefeller: “My answer would be, I would sit down with the leaders of the Israeli government and I would say, all right, here is the reality and how are we going to deal with it? If you will forgive me, sir. This happens to be their problem. They live over there. These people were on their land and they took the land. Now we have got problems. Do not misunderstand me. but we cannot solve everybody’s problems. And by making a pronouncement in this room as to what you would do or what I would do, may not solve a problem. It may only exacerbate that problem and may make it more difficult for the countries involved to solve it. Therefore, I have a tremendous responsibility.”

Eilberg: “Governor, I think your position and my position are somewhat different. I think it is more our problem than you think it is.” Rockefeller: “Excuse me, it is our problem in that it affects us but we do not have the power to settle it, which makes it very difficult for us.”

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