Bethlehem Mayor Urges Arab Countries to Recognize Israel and Allow the Formation of a Jordanian-plo
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Bethlehem Mayor Urges Arab Countries to Recognize Israel and Allow the Formation of a Jordanian-plo

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Elias Freij the Mayor of Bethlehem, urged Arab countries today to recognize Israel and allow the formation of a Jordanian-Palestine Liberation Organization delegation to negotiate with Israel.

But Freij, in an appearance at the American Enterprise Institute, said that unless Israel permits the 150-200 delegates from the West Bank and Gaza to attend a meeting of the Palestine National Council, the Council will never endorse the PLO joining such negotiations.

King Hussein of Jordancited the failure of the Reagan Administration to pressure Israel to allow the West Bank and Gaza delegates to attend the meeting as one of the reasons for his refusal to enter negotiations with Israel under American auspices.

Freij, who met with Secretary of State George Shultz earlier this week, repeated his often stated position that Israel and the Palestinian Arabs “are destined to live together; whether we like each other, whether we hate each other.”


He charged that Israel was creating “facts” on the West Bank and Gaza through its bulldozers by building settlements. He said the situation within three years “will become irreversible.”

“The more we wait, the more we lose, ” the Betnlehem Mayor said. “Time is working against the interests of the Palestinian Arabs. ” He charged that the “Israel government intends to completely annex the West Bank and Gaza.”

Freij said the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza “would like the Arab governments to allow the Palestinian people, the PLO and Jordan to reach an agreement and to let us find a political solution through direct talks with Israel.”


He scoffed at Arab radio and television diatribes against Israel. “Israel will not withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza unless the Arabs offer to recognize Israel and then sit with Israel around the table and negotiate,” he said. Friej said that such a position is needed to “convince ” both Israel and the U.S. of the Arabs’ willingness to make peace.

A supporter of President Reagan’s September I, 1982 initiative, Freij said the U.S. has lost “credibility” because it has refused to prevent Israel from building settlements on the West Bank and Gaza and instead continued to provide Israel with aid.


Freij charged that former Vice President Walter Mondale, who is seeking the Democratic Party’s Presidential nomination, “abused” the Palestinian people by his statement yesterday that he was opposed to a Palestinian home land. (See separate story.)

“Would this honorable candidate give us a state in the U.S. where we can live then?”he asked. He suggested later that if Mondale becomes President he will then change his views because of the realities of the situation.


Freij said that what the Palestinians want is “a homeland, an identity, an address.” Never using the term “Palestinian state”, Friej said that such a homeland could be disarmed, would be “good neighbors” with Israel and would have open borders with Israel. He said it would also be closely tied to Jordan “but would run our own affairs.”

To accomplish this, Freij maintained that the Palestinians look to the leadership of Yasir Arafat. “Arafat has overwhelming support in the West Bank and Gaza,” he said. “He is the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.” He said that at recent meetings with Arafat and Hussein, they were urged to seek a “political and peaceful solution.” He said this belief in the need for a peaceful solution is the “consensus” of the three million Palestinians who live on the West Bank, Gaza and in Jordan.

While envisaging peaceful relations with Israel, Freij did not see Israelis continuing to live on the West Bank and Gaza unless Palestinians were allowed to return to their pre-1948 homes in Israel.


Freij also warned that if the U.S. moves its Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it would have “difficult results” for the U.S. throughout the Arab world and the Moslem world. He said the issue should be resolved as part of the Palestinian question. (Related story, P. 3.)

But if the U.S. acts unilaterally by moving its Embassy, Freij said it would mean that the Arab extremists will be seen as having been right in their claims that the U.S. accepts the annexation of East Jerusalem and the eventual annexation of the West Bank and Gaza. “Jerusalem is not a commodity to be used in electioneering,” Freij stressed.

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