JERUSALEM (Feb. 9)
Premier Shimon Peres said today that attempts to bring the PLO into the peace process have been a “total failure.” Peres spoke at a reception in Tel Aviv after he was briefed by Wat Cluverius, the U.S. special envoy to the Middle East, who came to Jerusalem from Amman last Friday. Cluverius also briefed Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir at a separate meeting.
The American diplomat had an indirect dialogue with PLO chief Yasir Arafat. The intermediaries were Hanna Seniora, editor of the East Jerusalem Arabic daily Al-Fajer, and Faez Abu Rahma, a lawyer from Gaza, both prominent figures in the Palestinian community.
Arafat departed Amman yesterday after apparently rejecting American terms offered for PLO participation in peace negotiations and stating conditions of his own that were unacceptable to the U.S. to Israel and possibly even to King Hussein of Jordan.
Although diplomatic sources here and in Amman insisted that efforts are continuing to bridge the gap between Hussein and Arafat, their talks have ended. Israeli sources publicly dismissed claims from Amman that the talks were still alive.
OFFERS A DOWNBEAT ASSESSMENT
Peres offered his downbeat assessment to guests at a reception for author Shabtai Tevet whose latest book, “Ben Gurion and the Arabs,” has just been published. Peres said Arafat was following the course laid down more than a generation ago by the Jewhating Haj Amin el-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem in the 1920’s and 1930’s who fled to Berlin and became Hitler’s ally during World War II.
“As always, those who will suffer are the Arabs in the administered territories,” the Premier said. He suggested that with the situation now “returned to square one,” Israel offer the Palestinians in the territories a large degree of municipal governance. He listed health and education as two areas where the Palestinians could run their own affairs in the absence of a formal political settlement.
Peres did not use the term “unilateral autonomy”, coined several years ago by the late Moshe Dayan when he was Foreign Minister. The idea of Israel going ahead with some degree of autonomy for the Palestinians despite the breakdown of the three-cornered autonomy talks between Israel, Egypt and the U.S., still catches the fancy of politicians in both Likud and the Labor Party.
PLO SPURNS U.S. ENVOY’S SUGGESTION
No official report was made public of the talks Cluverius held in Amman with his Palestinian interlocutors. But according to reports from there, a suggestion was made that the PLO accept United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which implicitly recognize Israel’s right to exist, in return for U.S. consent to a PLO role in a peace conference. The PLO was reportedly told that if it cannot accept this, it should at least accept the participation of non-PLO Palestinians.
Both proposals, seen by observers as concessions to the PLO, were turned down by Arafat and his aides. The PLO leader reportedly proposed instead that the PLO would accept all UN resolutions, including 242 and 338, but many others that are specifically anti-Israel, and in addition, would insist on a statement of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination as one of the bases of a peace conference. The U.S. flatly rejected that formula and Arafat in turn blamed the U.S. for the failure to achieve any progress.
Highly placed Israeli observers have been saying that the moment of truth came for Hussein when he tried to win support for the peace process from either the PLO or Syria. Now, they said, he must decide whether to go it alone in talks with Israel and moderate Palestinians.
But Hussein is reportedly in an angry mood. He has said to have reacted bitterly to the Reagan Administration’s suspension last week of its proposed $1.5 billion arms sale to Jordan because of implacable opposition to it in both houses of Congress.