WASHINGTON (Sep. 5)
The United States is “clearly disappointed” by the refusal of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Central Council and its leader, Yasir Arafat, to accept President Carter’s proposal for talks but is “hopeful” the terrorist organization will change its views.
These expressions at the State Department come last Friday after spokesman Hodding Carter came under repeated questioning as to why the Department has criticized Israel for its positions while it has declined to discuss Arab actions and views, particularly those of the PLO. “We remain hopeful the PLO will indeed accept” United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, Carter said at one point in the extended questioning.
At another, when he was asked what had happened after Saudi Arabia and others had told the United States the PLO would accept the resolution, Carter remarked there is “no way to report” on the PLO’s decision. “We counted on all parties” in the Middle East to go along for a peaceful resolution of the conflict, he said. “Clearly, we are disappointed” that the PLO decision “makes it less possible.”
The spokesman’s comments come after almost a week passed since the PLO Council meeting in Damascus rejected Carter’s offer to open contacts with the terrorist leaders if they would accept Resolution 242, with its own reservations that in effect watered it down and after Arafat in Moscow had accused the U.S. of torpedoing the Geneva conference by refusing to agree that the PLO participate in that conference without first agreeing to adhere to Resolution 242.
EVASIVE ON OTHER ISSUES
On other questions, Hodding Carter was mainly silent. He had “no comment” on a report the PLO had approached the U.S. through third parties on undetermined formula that the U.S. rejected. He also refused to discuss the manifesto of the Lebanese Christian Front that the Palestinian Arabs in Lebanon be redistributed among Arab countries as a solution to the conflict within Lebanon.
When an Arab reporter asked for U.S. reaction to reports prominently presented here on Israeli moves to establish more settlements, both urban and rural, in a security plan for the West Bank suggested by Agriculture Minister Ariel Sharon, head of the ministerial settlement committee, which was reported last Thursday in Maariv, Carter replied, “This is not an Israeli plan, it is a newspaper report.” He added, “unless there is a formal published report” he would not comment. However, he indicated that the U.S. position on Israeli settlements remained one of opposition.
Carter also turned aside a report that Egypt is gearing a resolution at the United Nations General Assembly later this month to attack Israel’s West Bank settlements.
Finally when reporters asked Carter why the State Department engages in a “double standard” of attacking Israel but withholding criticism of the Arabs, Carter denied that such a standard was followed but he acknowledged that “we deal with the parties in different ways.”
The upshot of the Middle East situation, as analysts see it, is that little will be forthcoming until Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan meets with President Carter and Secretary of State Cyrus Vance here Sept. 19 and Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko follows him into similar sessions later the same week.