JERUSALEM (Aug. 25)
A newly formed Arab group on the West Bank declaring itself to be against the Palestine Liberation Organization is under bitter verbal attack by the Palestinian mass media both in the occupied territories and abroad. Hussein Shuyuhi of Hebron, the leader of the group, denounced PLO chief Yasir Arafat and charged that he was stealing Palestinian money.
Shuyuhi also claimed that he has received threats but these will not stop him from conducting his anti-PLO campaign. As evidence of this, leaflets were distributed yesterday throughout the West Bank condemning the PLO. Nevertheless, a press conference which was to have been cancelled the last minute by its organizers. The reason, they said, was that Shuyuhi had suffered a “slight heart attack.”
This is the first time a public campaign by West Bank Arabs has been mounted against the PLO. Sheikh Mohammed Ali Jaabari, the former mayor of Hebron and still an influential leader in the West Bank, has always supported a “Jordanian solution” for the future of the West Bank. But this is the first time that this line has congealed into a political movement.
BELIEVED TO BE BACKED BY JORDAN
The anti-PLO expressions by the new group began as a private initiative. However, it is believed that the organizers are backed by Jordan. All the participants, especially Shuyuhi and Burhan Jaabari, Sheikh Jaabari’s son, are known for their close ties with the Hashemite Kingdom. Nevertheless, the organizers do not explicitly speak of returning the West Bank to Jordan, but rather of creating a Palestinian state which would not necessarily be represented by or identified with the PLO.
The emergence of the group coincided with the convening of the Central Council of the PLO in Damascus today. The 55-member council is due to formulate an official response to President Carter’s hints of a possible recognition of the PLO if it would accept UN Security Council Resolution 242.
The new anti-PLO moves, analysts here note, should therefore be viewed in the context of the American efforts to renew the momentum for resolving the Mideast crisis. The first indication of the sentiments personified by the new anti-PLO group appeared during Secretary of State Cyrus Vance’s Mideast trip earlier this month. During a garden party at Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan’s home in honor of Vance and his entourage, the Secretary was given a memorandum by Burhan Jaabari stressing that the PLO was not necessarily the representative of the Palestinians.
QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT THE GROUP
The questions raised here about the anti-PLO group are: how serious is it and to what extent is it influential in the West Bank? Dr. Eliyahu Ben Elissar, the director general of the Premier’s office, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency today that he did not think the group was very influential. That view, however, was expected since the government wants to downplay both the supporters of the PLO and Hussein supporters in the West Bank. This is in line with Israel’s effort to retain the West Bank and leave it neither for the PLO nor Hussein to take over.
But beyond the official Israeli view, it was recalled that in the West Bank municipal elections last year, most of the mayors elected were known for being close to the PLO. The vote was then interpreted as a vote of confidence in the PLO. In addition, none of the participants in the new group is known to be influential in the West Bank. Shuyuhi was an unknown name until the new anti-PLO offensive emerged.
However, if indeed there is Jordanian backing–and money–behind this new offensive, this group, some say, may prove more influential in days to come.