WASHINGTON (Dec. 22)
The American Friends Service Committee, which has long advocated support for the recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization, has arranged a nationwide conference Feb. 11-14 at the 4-H Center outside Washington as part of an extensive campaign across the country to induce President-elect Jimmy Carter and the new Congress to include the PLO in any Middle East peace negotiations. It was reported that representatives of several Jewish organizations are expected to attend the conference.
According to copies of the letter related to the Committee’s continuing program, made available today to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “The purpose of the conference is to make use of the period immediately after the inauguration when the new Administration will be especially open to public opinion. We see an opportunity for the development of U.S. policy in support of all parties to the conflict, including the PLO, being included in negotiations.” The letter was dated Dec. 2.
An enclosure circulated with the Dec. 2 letter announced that the Committee “will be bringing” retired Israeli Maj. Gen. Matti Peled to the U.S. for “a national speaking tour” in February. Peled has advocated that Israel negotiate with any Palestinian group that recognizes its right to exist.
BASIS FOR COOPERATING IN CONCLAVE
The Committee’s letter identified organizations “cooperating” in the conference as “those comfortable working with the following framework of the conference: belief that the dispute between Jewish and Palestinian nationalism is at the center of the (Middle East) conflict; support for the right of the Palestinians to an independent state; inclusion of all parties, including the PLO and the USSR, in negotiations; concern over arms to the area; and recognition that the U.S. is the leading supplier of arms.” No mention was made of Soviet arms supplies to the Arab states.
The letter said that the Committee’s program “is increasingly focused on exploring options for peace in the Middle East with media and opinion-makers.” A footnote to a brochure accompanying the letter expressed concern that the PLO may not be able to participate in negotiations because of the damage it sustained in the Lebanese civil war. “We view this as a setback for the prospects for real peace because the PLO is a primary party to the conflict in that it is the most representative organization of the Palestinians,” the Committee said.
In addition, the Committee circulated a copy of its “Questions and Answers” about the Arab-Israeli conflict which it will include as “the first of several resources which will include a primer on arms and a book of Palestinian and Israeli poetry.”
Last month the Committee arranged a private meeting here between PLO representatives and five American Jews affiliated with national Jewish organizations. A similar meeting was held in New York. The Jews who attended both meetings said they did so only as individuals. A group of prominent but unofficial Israelis met with PLO representatives in Paris last month.
U.S. policy currently bars any “substantive” contact with the PLO until it adheres to UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. The Israeli government’s official position is that it will not have dealings under any circumstances with a terrorist organization the avowed purpose of which is to dismantle the Jewish State.