Jewish Leaders Tell Carter They Are Apprehensive over His Stand on PLO

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has expressed “deep apprehensions” to President Carter that he is weakening the United States stand on the Palestine Liberation Organization. This was conveyed to the President in a letter from Rabbi Alexander Schindler, chairman of the Presidents Conference, during a White House meeting Friday, according to Yehuda Hellman, executive director of the Conference.

Hellman said today that only the President, Schindler and himself were at the meeting which was off the record and of which reporters were not notified. Schindler told the JTA that the press was not notified because the Presidents Conference wanted to keep the issue low keyed and was principally interested in letting the Administration know how the Jewish community felt on the PLO issue. Schindler said he had expressed similar views to Undersecretary of State Philip Habib 10 days earlier.

He said the letter was written after it was authorized by a meeting of the Presidents Conference Thursday night. He said he asked for a meeting Friday morning and it was scheduled at short notice Friday afternoon. At the time he did not know the President himself would accept the letter from him. Carter did not read the letter in the presence of the two Conference officials during what Hellman described as a “brief meeting.” He said the President only stated he would give it his fullest consideration.

CONTENT OF LETTER REVEALED

The letter, which was signed by Schindler and obtained through independent sources today by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, noted that the United States since Sept. 1,1975 has a commitment not to deal with the PLO unless it recognizes Israel’s right to exist and accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. But Schindler said that Carter in his recent press conference in Plains, Ga. Seemed to be backing away from this commitment.

“We were concerned that your recent remarks in Plains to the effect ‘if the Palestinians should say we recognize 242 in its entirety but we think the Palestinians have additional status other than just refugees, that would suit us okay,’ may represent a reversal of long-standing government policy,” Schindler wrote.

“The statement appears to imply that the PLO will no longer be required to accept Israel’s right to exist as an essential condition of American recognition. Equally troubling is the seeming willingness to permit the PLO to modify the terms of Resolution 242 in accepting it.”

The letter stressed that such a policy “would represent a discouraging retreat from earlier commitments and from your own Administration’s earlier policy. The basic concept of Resolution 242 is the establishment of a just and lasting peace in the Middle East through agreement between the states concerned. The PLO is not a state; it does not, in our judgment, represent the Arabs of the West Bank; it was not a party to the original Geneva conference called under Resolution 338. For the PLO to simply ‘recognize 242,’ therefore, is not enough.”

The letter was written and given to Carter before the Presidents Conference officials were aware that the PLO Central Council meeting in Damascus on Friday again rejected Resolution 242 and called for “continuous armed struggle against Zionist occupation.”

Schindler also stressed in his letter that “as your Administration has previously indicated, there can be no greater peril to America’s interest in a stable and peaceful Middle East–nor a more direct peril to Israel’s survival–than to hand over the West Bank and Gaza territories to the most radical element in the area. Any American flirtation with the PLO would lead inevitably, we fear, to just such a dangerous result.”

In the letter, Schindler noted that while in Israel recently he saw the eight victims of a bomb which exploded on a bus in Afula, “the most recent example of PLO terror.”

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