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Socialists Unable to Agree on a Middle East Declaration

The Socialist International wound up a three-day meeting in Basel unable to agree on a final declaration on the Middle East. It decided, however, to continue the discussion at its next conference, scheduled to be held in Sydney, Australia in April, 1983.

The Basel meeting, nevertheless, adapted a report prepared by former Prime Minister Mario Soares of Portugal which was considered balanced and likely to be the basis for the discussions in Australia next spring. The Soares report, which stemmed from visits by a Socialist International delegation to Israel, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt last summer, was accepted by the Israeli delegation headed by Labor Party chairman Shimon Peres, with minor modifications.

ELEMENTS IN THE SOARES REPORT

The Soares report condemns all racist manifestations and hate-mongering in connection with the Middle past conflict; condemns the massacres in the Shatila and Sabra refugee camps in Beirut last September; and also condemns anti-Semitism and recent acts of terror against Jews and Jewish institutions. The Socialist international reaffirmed its solidarity with Israel’s opposition Labor Party and Mapam, Labor’s Alignment partner, and with the Labor Party of Lebanon.

It approved specifically the attitude of the Labor Party toward the Beirut massacres — which was an immediate call for a commission of inquiry initially resisted by Premier Menachem Begin’s, government – and supported the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Lebanon. In that connection the report urged the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

The Soares report also calls for direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and Jordan but does not mention the PLO. It urges ” right of determination” for the Palestinian people The Israeli delegation would have preferred “right of existence.”

A text proposed by the Lebanese delegation but not incorporated in the report called specifically for Israeli withdrawal from all Arab territories occupied since 1967 and for recognition of the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people, their right to self-determination and to form a Palestinian state. The Lebanese also suggested an international conference on the Middle East to be attended by all parties, including the PLO, the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Peres, addressing the meeting, said President Reagan’s peace initiative for the Middle East was acceptable to the opposition in Israel, to President Francois Mitterrand of France and to moderate Palestinian leaders as a basis for talks. The PLO could not be a party to this because of its charter calling for the destruction of Israel, Peres said.

Peres said his Labor Party had supported Israel’s invasion of Lebanon to root out the PLO which had become a “state within a state” and an “army within an army.” But he reminded the delegates, Labor had opposed Israel’s entry into Beirut.

The Israeli delegates admitted that they had never encountered such harsh criticism leveled at Israel at previous meetings of the Socialist International, particularly from delegates who were always pro-Israel. Some of the sharpest critics were Prime Minister Olaf Palme of Sweden and Bettino Traxi of the Italian Socialist Party. Traxi stressed the dangers of “the crazy dream of the Begin government” for a “greater Israel” and urged backing for the Labor Party to replace the present Israeli regime.

UNFOUNDED RUMORS

The conference, held from November 2-4, opened amid rumors that it would call for the expulsion of Israel, that Peres would be forced to resign as a vice chairman of the Socialist International and that the Palestine Liberation Organization would be invited to the Sydney conference.

Those rumors, circulated; by Jean Ziegler, a pro-Arab member of the Swiss Socialist Party, proved unfounded. Willy Brandt of West Germany, President of the Socialist International, said at a press conference that the question of expelling Israel was never raised.

He also denied Ziegler’s contention that he had spoken by telephone to PLO chief Yasir Arafat to invite the PLO to Sydney. “I have never spoken on the phone with Arafat. The PLO will not be invited to Australia as even Arafat agrees, it is not a Socialist movement and there is no point inviting it,” Brandt said.

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