JERUSALEM (Sep. 11)
A group of prominent American Jews has come away from meetings this week in Amman and Cairo convinced of Jordan’s and Egypt’s urgent wish to broaden the peace process with Israel.
The American Jews, leaders of the American Jewish Congress, reported to Premier Shimon Peres in Jerusalem today on their talks with King Hussein, President Hosni Mubarak, and their top aides.
One central theme which they heard repeatedly in the two Arab capitals, they said, was that sections of the PLO had indeed moderated their stance and the PLO should therefore “be put to the test” in a diplomatic process.
Prof. Henry Rosovsky of Harvard, one of the AJCongress group, told reporters his private feeling was that Washington should set up talks between Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, on the clear understanding that the PLO would respond, within a set time, by explicitly recognizing Israel and accepting the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242.
The AJCongress group had the clear impression that PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s failure to commit himself in advance to a significant move of this kind had thwarted the American effort last month to launch a U.S.-Jordanian/Palestinian dialogue.
AJC MISSION TRIGGERS CONTROVERSY
The AJC mission has already triggered controversy in Israel, and is expected to do so in the U.S. Jewish community too. Israel Radio broadcast today, without citing a source, that the AJCongress group had violated an undertaking given to the Prime Minister’s Office and to the Foreign Ministry not to engage in Jordan in talks pertaining to Israel’s security considerations.
The distinct impression in Jerusalem, however, is that while the Foreign Ministry, under Deputy Premier and Likud leader Yitzhak Shamir, was indeed opposed to the AJC’s mission — and made its position clear through the Embassy in Washington — the Prime Minister’s Office gave the mission at least a tacit nod.
ISSUE OF THE PLO
Regarding Israeli concerns over the location of PLO headquarters units in Amman, the AJC group reported that high Jordanian leaders had offered copious assurances that the units concerned were low-level and that they were being closely monitored and controlled by the Jordanian authorities.
The group reported that Jordanian and Egyptian leaders sought to dissociate Arafat from current terror attacks against Israel. Specifically, they said, it was claimed to them that two yachts recently apprehended by the Israeli navy had not been carrying Palestinian terror squads bent on infiltrating Israel but rather had been ferrying the Palestinians to Lebanon for innocent purposes. In a statement issued by the AJC group after their meeting with Peres, they wrote that “we believe … Hussein … and … Mubarak now wish to widen the peace between Egypt and Israel to include other Arab countries. They believe in the urgency of doing so now, before forces of political and religious extremism make the task impossible.”
The statement continued: “Egyptian and Jordanian officials were unanimous in their declarations that they believed that certain elements in the PLO have moderated their extremism and are prepared to live in peace with Israel if a Palestinian entity, federated with Jordan, were to become a realistic possibility. They stated that this tendency towards moderation would be greatly strengthened if the U.S. government were to open a dialogue with these elements of the PLO.
“It is in this context that Egyptian and Jordanian officials strongly endorsed the so-called Murphy meeting. In response to our skepticism that Arafat would recognize Israel and renounce terrorism as a result of such a meeting, they urged that it is time that the PLO be put to the test.
“We expressed … our strong view that at this time the Prime Minister of Israel is prepared to go as far as any Israeli head of government can in moving towards peace. Egyptian and Jordanian officials concurred …. We urged upon them the necessity of direct face-to-face negotiations now, while this possibility exists …. We intend to encourage our own government to assist all of the parties concerned in meeting with Israel.”