WASHINGTON (Nov. 23)
Secretary of State George Shultz has invited West Bank residents attending a conference here to meet with him at the State Department this evening, a Department spokesman disclosed today.
The group is expected to include two mayors expelled by Israel, Mohammed Milhem of Halhoul and Fahd Kawasmeh of Hebron, Department spokesman John Hughes said. He rejected a suggestion that members of the Palestine Liberation Organization could be among the group meeting with Shultz, saying, “we are confident that they are not members of the PLO.”
At the same time, he noted that he would not know the names of people until they arrive for the meeting with Shultz. The persons meeting with Shultz have been attending a two-day conference called “Palestinians Under Occupation” sponsored by the American University’s Center for Mediterranean Studies.
PROVISO FOR FOREIGN WORKERS UNDER SCRUTINY
Meanwhile, Hughes said that Shultz would have to see more information on Israel’s new requirement for foreign workers on the West Bank before the Secretary can be assured that his “concern” over the restrictions of academic freedom had been resolved. Shultz said last week that the Israeli requirement, that teachers at three West Bank universities sign a pledge that they are not aiding the PLO or other hostile organizations before they receive a renewal of their three-month visas, was a restriction of academic freedom.
Hughes repeated what he said yesterday that the report that a new policy by Israel was “movement” in a “healthy direction.” Israel has dropped the three-month visa and is offering foreign workers, including teachers, a one-year working permit which includes a proviso that it will be withdrawn if they aid the PLO or other hostile organizations.
The spokesman said the Department wants more information on “what people are being asked to sign and who is being asked to sign” before making any further judgements. But when asked whether the U.S. would press for admission of the more than 20 foreign professors who have already left the West Bank because they refused to sign the pledge formally required of them, Hughes said that was a decision for Israel to make.
U.S. SATELLITE FOR ARAB CONSORTIUM
In other developments, Hughes said the State Department welcomes the announcement yesterday by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) that it signed an $11 million contract to launch a communications satellite from the space shuttle in 1984 for a 22-member Arab consortium. Arabsat. He said the agreement with Arabsat, which is owned by members of the Arab League, “is important for the space shuttle operation” which went into commercial use last week.
Both Libya and the PLO are members of the consortium, which was the reason it was held up by Congress last year when it was submitted by the State Department. But the State Department has maintained that the contract with the consortium does not represent U.S. recognition of the PLO which, as an Arab League member, owns one-sixth of one percent of Arabsat. Libya owns 18 percent. The Department also argued that it would not provide any military capabilities to Libya or any other country since the satellite basically has one television channel and all the other channels are telephone lines. The U.S. maintains that it will not deal with the PLO unless it recognizes Israel’s right to exist. The U.S. also has no diplomatic relations with Libya.
The original proposal to build the satellite caused an uproar in Congress but the Administration persuaded the legislators that the deal did no involve military technology or recognition of the PLO. This was reaffirmed yesterday by Gen. James Abrahamson, associate administrator of NASA, who said that the shuttle is a commercial service and that satellite activities “should not be considered a political activity.” The Arabsat’s center of operations will be in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.