ROME (Sep. 27)
A two-day international conference on the Palestinian problem that wound up here yesterday served as the setting for a dialogue of sorts between ranking representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a six-member Israeli delegation with no official status.
The conference, sponsored by the Italian Committee for Solidarity with the Palestinian People, which comprised left-wing Christian Democrats, Socialists and Communists, was attended as well by representatives from 12 West European countries; Soviet bloc countries; the United States; and two Arab rejectionist states, Libya and Iraq. The two Arab delegations left on the first day of the conclave over what they perceived to be a “moderate” tone on the part of the PLO representatives. However, the Libyan delegate returned yesterday to deliver stinging denunciations of Israel.
The European countries represented were France, West Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Portugal, Malta, Greece, Turkey, Ireland and France. The U.S. representatives called themselves the “Afro-Indo-Puerto Rican-Indo Hispanic” delegation. They condemned “anti-Semitism, fascism, racism and Zionism” and claimed that they were building a pro-PLO lobby in the U.S.
Most observers agreed that the line taken by the PLO in speeches and at press conferences made it appear that they were softening the official position embodied in the PLO’s covenant which-calls for the replacement of Israel with a “democratic-secular” Palestinian state, and indicated a willingness to recognize Israel and co-exist with it on a reciprocal basis.
TRYING TO CREATE PR IMAGE
But while the PLO statements did not appear entirely devoid of sincerity, observers noted, me consensus of the observers was that the PLO was
The PLO delegation was to have been headed by Farouk Koddoumi, its head of foreign information. He was replaced, however, by Ahmad Sedki Dajani who had accompanied Arafat on his visits to Vienna and Madrid. The others were Nemer Hammad, the PLO representative in Rome; Moged Abu Sharar, secretary of EI Fatah and the head of the PLO department of information; and Ibrahim Ayod, a PLO executive member who was expelled from Jerusalem.
The Israelis present were Knesset members Uri Avneri of Sheli and Tewfiq Toubi of Rakah; Gafni Arnon, former director-general of the Finance Ministry; Tzvi Lamm and Daniel Amit, professors of pedagogy and physics, respectively, at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem; and Amnon Kopeliuk, a journalist. Dr. Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress, who had been expected to attend the conference, was not present. He sent a telegram stating that “Peace, which must be total, con only be based on mutual recognition of Arabs and Israelis including the right of self-determination of Palestinians.”
PLO SPEECH GENERALLY MILD
Dajani’s speech, though it contained some virulent accusations against, Israel, was generally milder in tone than the speeches of many pro-Palestinian delegates that preceded it. “We don’t want the destruction of any state. We have expressed our readiness to live with all Jews in peace with Israel,” he said. He stated that “If a Palestinian state is set up on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, all other outstanding questions will be solved peacefully.”
Observers noted that this was the first time a ranking PLO member publicly expressed willingness to accept the 1967 boundaries and repeatedly referred to Israel by name, implying recognition of its existence. The return of Palestinian refugees was not mentioned.
While the English translator of Dajani’s remarks had him referring to a Palestinian state in “part of Palestine,” the French and Italian translations spoke of “liberated” Palestine. It was clearly apparent that some of the European supporters of the Palestinian cause took a far more extreme position vis-a-vis Israel at this conference than the PLO spokesmen.
Avneri spoke In favor of Palestinian and Israeli states existing side-by-side with their capitals in East and West Jerusalem, respectively He called for a six-month cessation of violence on both sides and observed pointedly, ” You must realize that women and children killed by a bomb in Jerusalem are no less than women and children killed in a (refugee) comp in southern Lebanon” Toubi, however, delivered a rabidly anti-Israel speech with no counter-balancing condemnation of Palestinian terrorism.
At a press conference yesterday, Hammad insisted that peace must be built on equality and that Israel must take the first step by granting the Palestinians their right to self determination. He contended that even without a formal recognition of the PLO, everything else could be dealt with “at the table.”
As reporters began to leave, Hammad turned to some of them and said smilingly, “And don’t refer to us as terrorists when you write your articles.” When one reporter asked, “But when a bomb explodes on a Jerusalem street, who shall we say is responsible?” Hammad replied: “The PLO” He also rejected, in response to a reporter’s question, Avneri’s proposal for a six-month cessation of violence.