NEW YORK (Sep. 10)
Outgoing U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, who is heading a high-level U.S. trade mission to Africa, has been urging Black African heads of state to open a dialogue between their countries and Israel. Young, who resigned last month following a stormy controversy over his meeting with the Palestine Liberation Organization observer at the UN, has since then declared publicly several times that it is stupid for the U.S. not to talk to the PLO.
Before leaving on his mission last week, Young said “If I say that my government ought to talk to the PLO I also have to say that Africans ought to talk with Israel.” On this basis he met with President Aristides Pereira of Cape Verde and President William Tolbert of Liberia who is also chairman of the 40-nation Organization of African Unity (OAU) and urged them both to begin a formal dialogue with Israel to lessen the Jewish State’s isolation among Black African countries. Both Presidents indicated “interest” in Young’s suggestion.
While most African countries broke diplomatic relations with Israel after the Yom Kiopur War In 1973, the gradual withdrawal of Israel from Sinai as part of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty may have defused the issue. But one of the potential stumbling blocks to a dialogue with Israel is the Palestinian problem. Tolbert referred to this at the OAU summit meeting in Monrovia, Liberia last. July when he said that no Mideast solution is possible without resolving the “plight” of the Palestinians.
After Young talked with Tolbert, the Liberian President was asked if Israel’s relations with South Africa would be a barrier to convincing other Black African states to open a dialogue with Israel. Tolbert said it was “difficult to say if I would anticipate anything negative or positive” from other Black African leaders. But Young said, “from our information” Israel has been “observing the 1977 UN arms embargo against South Africa” and Israel-South African trade is “Insignificant.”