WASHINGTON (Nov. 19)
Israeli Interior Minister Yosef Burg responded sharply here to criticism in important sections of the American media of the Israeli government’s action to deport Mayor Bassam Shaka of Nablus. Burg, who spoke at an Israel. Bond Organization dinner last night and met with diplomatic correspondents this morning; noted that the Shaka case is before Israel’s Supreme Court and said the government would abide by the court’s decision.
Last night, Burg described Shaka as “a master of incitement.” He noted to the correspondents today that the government of Jordan had expelled Shaka when it was in control of the West Bank because of his activities as a member of the Baath Party which were inimical to the Jordanian regime. Asked by a reporter if the Israeli government should not “bend” in the Shaka case and allow the mayor to stay in office in order to speed up the peace process and encourage Palestinians to join it, Burg replied:
“I cannot accept the idea that Israel ‘bend’ to speed up the process–either what we should not do about it or should do. “He said that “at the Camp David conference we were told to stop building settlements and we did not do so. The destruction of the State of Israel could not be part of the peace process. If someone has an active role with the PLO we cannot forego security.”
A correspondent, observing that the U.S. is moving toward direct contact with the PLO, asked Burg if he thought there was any useful role in the U.S. talking to that organization. Burg replied: “Our reaction would be very sour, very negative. It would antagonize our endeavor to come into conversation with moderate Arabs. It is a common error that the PLO is only against Israel. The PLO terror is also directed against Arabs.”
Shortly after meeting with the correspondents, Burg, who heads the Israeli negotiating team in the current talks with Egypt and the U.S. on autonomy, conferred with Sol Linowitz, President Carter’s newly designated special Ambassador to the Middle East. Burg then left for New York where he was due to address a meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations late this afternoon.
During his meeting with the diplomatic correspondents here, Burg was asked what would happen if the autonomy talks are not concluded successfully by the May I deadline. Burg said, “We’ll try to continue. If you ask the Americans, they might suggest another summit and try again. On the Egyptians, I don’t know.”
Asked about inducing the Palestinians to join the talks, Burg said: “If the PLO terror will continue to prevent the Palestinians from participating in the talks, then the answer is very much in the negative. But two things can bring forward the Palestinians participation.”
He said one would be a decision by the Jordanian government to join the talks. He said that could happen “as a result of tendencies of radicalization threatening thrones and dynasties in the Middle East.” A second possibility, he said, was “if the talks on modalities (in the autonomy negotiations) give a clear line for elections, then the Arabs on the West Bank and Gaza would find it better to have elections for some kind of self-governing authority than nothing at all.”
Burg said that with respect to the West Bank, “there is one thing King Hussein (of Jordan) and (PLO chief Yasir) Arafat have in common. Both want the Israelis out. There is a basic fight — perhaps war — (as to) who will come in, “he said. He did not elaborate.