WASHINGTON (Dec. 1)
The State Department said today that the United States will participate in a Security Council debate on the Middle East next month to which the Palestine Liberation Organization apparently will be invited. The Israeli government stated in a communique today that it will not take part in or cooperate with the debate.
But John Trattner, deputy director of the State Department’s Press Office, told newsmen today that it was the U.S. “intention to participate.” He added, however, that “this has no implication whatsoever on our position on the substance of the debate. We will make that position clear to everyone during the course of the debate.” Trattner did not amplify that statement.
Observers believe the State Department was being deliberately vague in order to allay Israeli fears of a complete U.S. turn-about with regard to the PLO. The American failure to veto last night’s Security Council resolution has generated anxiety and anger in Israel over the U.S. position.
Trattner explained that to have vetoed the measure would have ended the UNDOF presence. He stressed that the resolution did not mention the PLO. He also stressed that the invitation to the PLO, contained in a statement by the Soviet Ambassador Yacov Malik in his capacity as President of the Security Council, was not subject to veto because “any nine of the Security Council’s fifteen members can invite anyone to participate.” He added that this was a “procedural matter.”
CAN’T EXPLAIN U.S. ACQUIESCENCE
Trattner was unable to explain why the U.S. went along with the resolution’s statement that the Security Council would consider “all” previous Middle East resolutions of the UN when the American Ambassador, Daniel P. Moynihan, stated specifically that “the U.S. considers that only Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 are in fact relevant to the situation in the Middle East.” President Ford and Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger have said repeatedly during the past few weeks that the U.S. will not deal with the PLO in any way as long as it does not recognize Israel’s sovereign status.
Trattner could not respond to numerous other questions regarding last night’s Security Council actions. These included the question of whether the U.S. had consulted “fully” with Israel and with the Soviet Union prior to accepting the Council’s decision, and whether the State Department still considered Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Harold Saunders’ recent statements that appeared to support the PLO as a negotiating partner to be merely “academic” as Kissinger had described them at the time.
Although the Security Council’s decision was described as a compromise aimed at ensuring the continued UN presence on the Golan Heights, some sources here felt the U.S. surrendered to Syria’s insistence on bringing the PLO into future Mideast debates. According to these sources, the U.S. appeased the Syrians and the Soviet Union which has fully backed Damascus’ demands but at the same time has alarmed the Israelis and dismayed the Egyptians.
They pointed out that while Egyptian President Anwar Sadat campaigned for the PLO during his recent visit to the U.S., he failed to elicit any public acknowledgement of U.S. support for a PLO role in Middle East diplomacy. The Syrians, who have been attacking Egypt on this issue, moved the U.S. closer toward their views and now emerge as the champion of the Palestinian cause, having succeeded where Egypt failed, the sources said.