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ZOA Charges That the U.S. is Planning to Deal with the PLO

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Rabbi Joseph P. Sternstein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, today accused the State Department of planning to back down on American commitments not to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization until it recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

Sternstein, addressing a meeting honoring Dr. Alfred Gottschalk, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), charged that the PLO “has made it clear that even if they accept UN Security Council Resolution 242, it will not mean recognition of the State of Israel.” He noted the optimistic announcements being issued by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance during his present Middle East tour and criticized him for “bowing to Arab dictates and then puffing up a supposed new-found PLO moderation.” The plan, continued Sternstein, “is to free the United States from its commitment to Israel not to deal directly with the PLO.”

Sternstein criticized President Carter for suggesting it may be necessary for him to go directly to the American public if Israel is adamant. “it is an extremely dangerous threat,” he said. “It is unacceptable. All public pressure dilutes America’s position as an honest mediator and makes her a partner in the negotiations. This is contrary to all past American policy as well as being contrary to President Carter’s own stated position.”

The speech was made at a dinner sponsored by the ZOA’s Cincinnati District and the local Jewish community, which is endowing an Alfred Gotts-chalk Department of Jewish Studies at the ZOA Kfar Silver Youth and Education Center in Israel. HUC-JIR is the Reform Rabbinical Seminary in America.

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