JERUSALEM (Feb. 26)
Officials here confirmed today that Israel has “expressed its dismay” to the United States over indirect contacts between the Reagan Administration and the Palestine Liberation Organization reportedly held during a nine-month period that ended in June, 1982.
The protest was conveyed by the Israeli Ambassador in Washington, Meir Rosenne, to Lawrence Eagleburger, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, at a meeting at the State Department last Thursday. Rosenne asked for a clarification of the reports which appeared in The New York Times on February 19. Last Wednesday night the Israeli envoy told a press conference at Zionist Organization of America headquarters in New York that he did not believe the published report.
Israel regards any U.S. contacts with the PLO to be in violation of the 1975 undertaking not to have any dealings with the PLO until it accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
The officials here said today that the reported contacts “do not help the cause of peace” and stressed that Israel would never negotiate with the PLO even if it recognized Israel.
The Reagan Administration’s first reaction to the Times report was an expression of disbelief by National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane in a television interview on February 19. But Secretary of State George Shultz confirmed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on February 23 that the contacts had taken place but that little came of them.
According to the Times, they were conducted through an American intermediary, John Mroz, described as a specialist on Middle Eastern affairs who reportedly had 50 meetings with PLO chief Yasir Arafat over the nine-month period and reported on them to Nicholas Veliotes, then Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Assian Affairs.
The Times said then Secretary of State Alexander Haig had agreed to the contacts at Veliotes’ suggestion as a means of drawing the PLO away from the Soviet orbit. Haig subsequently confirmed that he knew of the contacts. The White House insists that President Reagan had no such knowledge.