WASHINGTON (Jul. 9)
The meeting in Vienna over the weekend between Austrian Chancellor Bruno Kreisky and Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat was dismissed with a terse “no comment” by the State Department today Department spokesman Hodding Carter said he had “no idea” as to whether the U.S. knew in advance that Arafat would be meeting with Kreisky, a vice president of the Socialist international. Before saying “no comment,” he referred to the subject as the “Austrian question.”
An authoritative Middle East specialist at the State Department, asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency why the Department did not condemn the meeting for giving legitimacy to Arafat, replied, “We did not want to be rude to Kreisky. With respect to Arafat, our views have not changed. Don’t worry, we’re steadfast.” The specialist interjected a question of his own. “Do you think there can be peace without Arafat?” When told, of course, with non-PLO Palestinians, he snorted, “Bah.”
A Congressional source told the JTA that the Arafat-Kreisky meeting was “terrible because it gives Arafat respectability.” He said Arafat’s appearance in Vienna with a Socialist International leader “is not only undeserved but it is dangerous. This further alienates Israel from the Europeans and makes it more difficult to reach a Middle East settlement.” Asked why he thought the State Department had “no comment,” the source said “The real reason is that the Arabists there don’t want to offend Arafat.”
Similar criticism was expressed by another knowledgeable Congressional source who said the Kreisky-Arafat meeting was “a major legitimization of the PLO.” He said that “if indeed the U.S. policy has not changed toward the PLO, U.S. silence on the meeting itself therefore gives legitimacy to the PLO.”
Meanwhile, a Western diplomat, while highly critical of the U.S. silence on the Vienna meeting as helping Arafat gain legitimacy, noted to the JTA that “on the other hand, the U.S. is very strongly opposed to the admission of the PLO into the International Monetary Fund with observer status.” This was a reference to reports that the PLO has applied for observer status at the September meeting of the Fund.