NEW YORK (Sep. 12)
Theodore Mann chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, criticized “the recurring phenomenon, until recent weeks, in the State Department of attempts to deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization.” But, at the same time, Mann said, at a press conference here today, that he was pleased with the current American policy in the Middle East especially the direction of the negotiations on Palestinian autonomy.
He said he was satisfied with the recent statements by President Carter, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Carter’s special envoy to the Middle East, Robert Strauss, which “appear to recognize that the only sure way to peace is to let Egypt and Israel reach agreement without putting any pressure on them to do so or to meet any specific dateline other than those they accepted in the Camp David agreements and in the treaty they signed.”
Mann said that American Jewry’s message to the Administration should emphasize the importance of face-to-face negotiations between Israel and its neighboring states but not with the PLO. He warmed that with the upcoming session of the UN General Assembly beginning Sept. 18 it could be expected that Americans will be deluged with “a barrage of PLO propaganda” on Palestinian human rights.
Mann disclosed that he met with President Carter for lunch last week and that they had agreed that the distinction between the PLO and the Palestinians should be emphasized with greater clarity to the American people.
Mann recalled that he wrote to Vance on Aug. 6 inquiring about media reports that high Administration officials were warning that the U.S. had only until October to break the negotiating stalemate in the Middle East lest Saudi Arabia reduce oil production.
He quoted from Vance’s letter of reply, dated Aug. 30, in which the Secretary of State said: “I want to assure you that the U.S. is not under any threat or deadline with regard to the peace process. It is indeed important that continued progress be made in the peace negotiations but I know of no effort at pressure or intimidation.” Vance, according to Mann, added that “The United States remains firmly committed to the support of Israel ….President Carter has repeatedly reaffirmed that commitment, and I can assure you that it has not and will not be changed.”
Replying to a question about relations between the Black and Jewish communities in the aftermath of Ambassador Andrew Young’s resignation, Mann said he was hopeful that the Black – Jewish reactions have “quieted down.” He said he believed it will continue to quiet down and relations between the two communities will improve While he did not rule out the possibility that one or another Black leader will speak on behalf of the PLO, Mann said, “I do not think the Black community as a whole will ever forge an alliance with the PLO.”