JERUSALEM (Apr. 3)
Sen. George McGovern believes there is room for another U.S. effort to make progress toward an Israeli-Egyptian bilateral agreement before the Geneva conference reconvenes and says he “would hope there would be talks prior to any conference at Geneva. although Geneva might be essential to arrive at a settlement of all the problems of the area.’ The South Dakota Democrat who is on a Mideast fact-finding mission in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s subcommittee on the Middle East, made those remarks in an interview to be published here tomorrow in the Jerusalem Post. He also said he believed “there is room for a number of different approaches” on the Palestine question.
McGovern had a 90-minute talk with Premier Yitzhak Rabin at the Premier’s residence here this evening which he said was “very helpful and satisfactory.” He said he would disclose more details of their talk at his press conference tomorrow, (See separate story P.3)
Israel is the final stop on McGovern’s Middle East tour which took him earlier to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq Rabin and other Israeli leaders playing host to McGovern have carefully refrained so far from making any comment on the alleged expressions of support for a Palestinian state on the West Bank and U.S. recognition of the PLO attributed to the Senator during his current tour.
PLO chieftain Yasir Arafat, with whom McGovern met in Beirut last Friday, told newsmen in Kuwait yesterday that the Senator had left him with “the clear impression that the Ford Administration favors the creation of a Palestinian state.” Arafat boasted that “this was the first time that an American politician declared that the establishment of a Palestinian state is becoming an important element in U.S. thinking.”
NOT COMMITTED TO ARAFAT
McGovern said in his Jerusalem Post interview that he was “not committed” to Arafat or “to anyone personally on the Palestine question…It seems to me there is room for a number of different approaches. The less we consider the matter in terms of personalities but in terms of the broader issue that requires thoughtful and careful consideration, the more likely we are to arrive at a solution.”
The Senator, who was the Democratic Presidential candidate in 1972, began his visit here yesterday with meetings with West Bank notables arranged for him by the U.S. Consulate General in East Jerusalem. The meetings were held in Ramallah, 15 miles north of Jerusalem; at Bir Zeit village, site of an Arab college that is a hotbed of support for the PLO; and at his suite in the King David Hotel. There he received Anwar Al Hatib, the former Jordanian governor general of East Jerusalem. Their meeting was held in total secrecy, reportedly at the request of the American Consulate to avoid embarrassment to the Arab participants.
At Ramallah, McGovern met with, among others, Aziz Shehade, the East Jerusalem lawyer who defended Archbishop Hillarion Capucci and who is a long-time supporter of a Palestinian state, albeit a moderate. The newspaper Yediot Achronot today quoted an Arab notable as saying that “The Senator expressed enthusiastic support for the creation of a Palestinian state” during his meeting in Ramallah.
Similar attributions reported by Arab news media in Lebanon and other countries apparently disturbed the Senator. His Washington office issued a denial yesterday which was repeated here today by McGovern’s aide, Alan Baron, Baron said that McGovern had told Arafat nothing more than that the problem in principle of a Palestinian state would have to be considered in the context of a broad Middle East settlement.
PRAISE FOR WEST BANK LEADERS
The Senator had high words of praise for West Bank Arab leaders. He told the Jerusalem Post that he had found them “very restrained, very moderate, very intelligent and very responsible. They would like to see some kind of Palestinian entity, but they were not fanatical or rigid about it. They are ready to consider various possibilities.”
McGovern said he had detected no haired of Israel on the part of the West Bankers, “but they, like all of us, would like some feeling of independence and the feeling they have their own homeland.” He spoke of a possible federative solution but stressed that he had come to the Middle East with no plan of his own but to listen and to learn.
He told the Jerusalem Post that he would report on his trip to Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger when he returns to Washington and would try to find out from the Secretary his own view of why his recent mediation efforts in the Middle East had failed. “I want to give him the benefit of any insights I might have had,” McGovern said, adding that if he had any recommendations he would make them first to the Secretary and to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.