Israel is engaged in an intensive behind-the-scenes effort to ensure a United States veto of a Kuwaiti-sponsored resolution urging the Security Council to support the Palestinian people’s right to “self-determination.” The resolution, apparently inspired by the Palestine Liberation Organization, will be voted on tomorrow or Tuesday. It comes at a time of growing concern in Israel that the U.S. is modifying its long-standing policy of non-recognition of the PLO and no contacts with it.
Reports published in Israel last week claimed that the U.S. was considering amendment of Security Council Resolution 242 to facilitate its acceptance by the PLO which, in turn, could lead to recognition of the terrorist organization by the U.S. According to the reports, the resolution would be amended to refer to the rights of the “Palestinian people” instead of “Palestinian refugees.”
A spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that “we are not considering the amendment of any resolution.” She added, “Our position in regard to the PLO has not changed. We will not recognize nor talk to the PLO until the PLO recognizes Resolution 242 and the State of Israel.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Yehuda Blum, who returned to Israel last week for consultations, said on his arrival that there was no foundation to the Israeli press reports that the U.S. was considering an amendment to Resolution 242. Nevertheless, diplomatic sources at the UN indicated Friday that such a change was indeed being contemplated.
CHANGE APPEARS TO BE IN THE OFFING
That some change is in the offing seemed to be hinted by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs Harold Saunders in his appearance before the Mideast subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington Friday. Although he reiterated that the U.S. is committed not to negotiate with or recognize the PLO unless it accepted Israel’s right to exist, Saunders made it clear that the issue had political ramifications in addition to the legal commitment to Israel.
Asked about the possibility of the U.S. holding informal talks with the PLO, Saunders replied, “It is a sensitive political issue and we are going to be dealing with that not as a legal issue but as an issue that must be resolved in the context of supporting the negotiating process.”
At another point he observed, “We are dealing here not just with a legal commitment but with a political situation. The political situation is that we have opened the door and invited one million Palestinians to be represented in the negotiations which are now beginning…I think the important thing for all of us is that we develop the kind of dialogue with Palestinians that will move the negotiating process forward by their participation in the resolution of the process.”
Rep. Lee Hamilton (D. Ind) said he felt Sounders’ remarks indicated that the U.S. is “on the verge of a concerted effort to include Palestinians of all political stripes in the negotiating process.” Sounders said he agreed with Hamilton’s assessment. He also said there had been “an evolution” in some PLO attitudes toward Israel. When the JTA raised the question of the reported amendment to Resolution 242, a State Department official insisted there was no foundation to such reports.
In Israel, meanwhile, Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan, just returned from a visit to Holland, stressed to reporters yesterday that the U.S. was committed not to recognize the PLO unless it accepted Resolution 242. “The U.S. is bound by its commitments in the bilateral agreement with Israel,” Dayan said in what was seen as a direct reply to Saunders. He noted that the U.S. “reaffirmed after the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt (last March 26) that it would continue to abide by its commitments to refuse to negotiate with the PLO unless that organization accepted 242.”
ISRAEL DENOUNCES RECOMMENDATIONS
The resolution coming before the Security Council in the next two days emerged from the debate, which began Friday, on the recommendations of the General Assembly’s Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights at the Palestinian People. Israel refuses to recognize the committee and after an opening statement denouncing it and its report, Israel boycotted the debate. The recommendations by the 23-nation committee call for Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied Arab territories, the creation of a Palestinian State and the return of Palestinians to the homes they left in Israel after the 1948 war.
In order to avoid an American veto in the Security Council, the Kuwaitis presented a PLO-backed resolution calling for Palestinian “self-determination” without specifically demanding a Palestinian state. The PLO is seeking the support of the West European members of the Council which, it believes, could influence the U.S. to accept such a “moderate” approach. Israeli sources said Israel has been in contact with the American and European diplomats in an effort to head off support of the PLO tactic. Israel adamantly opposes the draft resolution by Kuwait.