Jerusalem (Apr. 21)
– Former Foreign Minister Abba Eban offered the Palestinian people a dialogue and urged full autonomy for them on the West Bank and Gaza Strip but firmly rejected any Israeli negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. “Our stand is clear: No to the PLO, yes to the moderate Palestinians,” Eban told a group of political reporters here Sunday to whom he spelled out the differences between Labor Alignment policies and those of the Likud-led government.
Eban, who many expect will be named Foreign Minister should Labor win the June 30 Knesset elections, agreed on at least one point with Likud hawk Moshe Arens, chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Security Committee. Arens said Sunday that the outcome of the Palestine National Council conference in Damascus last week and the resolutions it adopted proved the futility of the European view that the Palestine Liberation Organization was moderating its position.
Eban said that the sharply worded anti-Israel resolutions in Damascus proved that Israel was correct in objecting to the European Economic Community’s (EEC) Middle East initiative which calls for PLO “association” in the peace process.
He asserted that “Europe has not shown any rigor in its dialogue with the Palestinians. Instead of according recognition to the PLO on the basis of the PLO’s extremist policies, attitudes and tactics, the European community should have refused any such recognition. It should have argued that its refusal was based upon the unacceptable ideology and terrorist policy of the PLO. Therefore, Europe has undermined its own bargaining power if it ever wants to bring
about a change in the Palestinian community.” Foreign Ministry circles said last week that they had been told by certain European countries which they declined to name that the outcome of the Damascus conference would “surprise Israel” by its moderation. Arens said Sunday that the anti-Israel resolutions that emerged from the Damascus gathering should surprise no one.
He suggested that the Damascus conference might have provided “a lesson for some of the European community, or for the British who have seemed to be living under the delusion or illusion that the PLO could moderate its position, that it was only a matter of being nice to them…”
Eban told reporters that the gap between Labor and Likud was wider than that between any opposition and coalition anywhere in the Western world.” The choice is between a line which makes Israel breath into her lungs a million and a quarter Arabs, despite their will, and the line which refrains from returning to the pre-1967 borders but without imposing Israel’s permanent rule.” He called for speedy resumption of the autonomy talks with Egypt, with the aim of granting the Palestinians full autonomy.
Beyond that, Eban said, the principle of territorial compromise should be added as another option on top of the Camp David agreements. He rejected criticism of Labor’s proposed “Jordanian option” on grounds that Jordan has shown no sign of wanting to negotiate with Israel. “One cannot expect an Israeli political party to tailor its political platform according to the wishes of an Arab country,” Eban said.
He added, however, that the Palestinian problem cannot be solved without taking into consideration the position of factors east of the Jordan River, just as one cannot reach a peace arrangement with Jordan without solving the Palestinian problem. Eban observed that a position of territorial compromise would be more readily accepted by world public opnion than the policies of the present government.