JERUSALEM (Nov. 25)
Israeli leaders are keeping a close watch on the Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting now in progress in Amman, Jordan, with King Hussein serving as host to Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat and some 250 delegates said to still be loyal to him.
It is the first meeting of the so-called Palestinian parliament since February, 1983. In the interim the PLO has been badly split, with a strong anti-Arafat element, backed by Syria, denouncing and boycotting the session.
The Israelis seem primarily interested in Hussein’s position. In his welcoming address to the PNC last Thursday, the Jordanian monarch repeated his call for an international peace conference on the Middle East under United Nations auspices and within the framework of UN Security Council Resolution 242, in which the PLO would be a participant. Late reports from Amman indicate a PLO rejection.
Israel has flatly rejected such an approach, which would also give the Soviet Union a major role in the Middle East peace process, and remains adamant against any negotiations with the PLO which it regards as a terrorist organization.
REACTIONS BY ISRAELI LEADERS
President Chaim Herzog summed up the Israeli consensus today when he said the PLO could not be considered part of a peace process. While Premier Shimon Peres has welcomed Hussein’s call for negotiations per se, Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir warned sharply against any “intimacy” between Hussein and Arafat.
Nevertheless, some analysts say the Amman meeting could prove to be a watershed if Arafat would break with the PLO radicals and back Hussein’s diplomatic approach.
A spokesman for Peres, Uri Savir, said today that the Premier did not expect the PLO, under Arafat’s leadership, to accept Hussein’s recommendation for peace talks based on Resolution 242 and the “territory for peace” principle. Savir noted that not only the PLO but the entire Arab world remains divided and feuding and in such circumstances the most radical positions are the ones adopted.
However, Savir recalled Peres’ own repeated appeals to Hussein to enter into peace talks with Israel without preconditions on either side. The Likud regime, which preceded the present Labor-Likud unity government, insisted that any talks with Jordan must be based on the Camp David accords.
SHAMIR SEEMS TO RULE OUT TALKS WITH JORDAN
Shamir, in a weekend radio interview, appeared to rule out any talks with Jordan. He claimed that Hussein’s appeal for negotiations implied a total Israeli withdrawal to its pre-June, 1967 borders and warned that if Arafat were to concur with Hussein, it would mean for him just another stage in his hoped-for eradication of the State of Israel.
“No Israeli can look with favor upon an intimacy” between Hussein and Arafat, Shamir declared. He stressed that the unity government was predicated on no change in policy with respect to talks with Hussein. Asked what would be the case should Hussein express a sincere interest in compromise, Shamir replied that it would probably lead to the dissolution of the unity government in Israel.
Other analysts saw some progress in Amman if Arafat emerged from the PNC conference determined to pursue a diplomatic course, even at the expense of PLO unity. They noted, however, that up to now, the PLO chief always put unity above all other considerations and has spumed diplomatic efforts.
Conceivably, they said, Arafat might now be prepared to lead his wing of the PLO into a more moderate approach. That would mean abandonment of his pretensions of heading a united PLO which, at present, does not exist. A signal of such a drastic change on Arafat’s part would be a trip to moderate Arab capitals or sympathetic European capitals after he leaves Amman, the analysts said.
HUSSEIN’S CALL HAS LITTLE CHANCE OF APPROVAL
But international press reports from Amman over the last 24 hours indicated that Hussein’s call for diplomacy has little chance of winning approval from Arafat’s wing of the PLO, much less the Syrian-backed PLO dissidents who ousted Arafat from Lebanon last spring.
Hussein, for his part, underlined his support for Arafat when he agreed to host the PNC meeting. In his welcoming speech he renewed his invitation to the PLO to join Jordan in diplomatic efforts aimed at a general Middle East peace. At the same time, he made clear that if the PLO decided to go its own way, it would still have Jordan’s support.