WASHINGTON (Mar. 13)
Hanna Seniora, a leading Palestinian figure in East Jerusalem said he was exploring the possibility of convening an international peace conference with no pre-conditions and in which Palestinian individuals would be part of a single Arab delegation.
At the same time, Seniora maintained that Palestinians in both Israel proper and the occupied territories have a right to launch attacks on “legitimate military targets” as long as there is no movement toward the peace table.
Seniora, who is the editor of the pro-PLO daily Al-Fajr and is one of two West Bank Palestinians declared acceptable by both the PLO and the Israel government as possible representatives in peace talks between Israel and a Jordan-Palestinian delegation, said he expected a reconciliation between Jordan and the PLO, following the recent rift between them, and suggested that new initiatives would follow.
“I believe in the next few months,” Seniora told reporters Wednesday at a press breakfast sponsored by the Foreign Policy quarterly, “that new developments will surface.”
Uri Avneri, editor of the Hebrew weekly, Ha’Olam Hazeh, and a former Knesset member of the leftist Progressive List for Peace, accompanied Seniora on his visit to Washington. The two will be in New York next week. The Seniora-Avneri visit is being sponsored by The Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace, an organization founded by Avneri, and its counterpart in the U.S.
SUPPORT FOR THE PLO POSITION
Maintaining that the PLO could not be expected to accept UN Security Council Resolution 242 — one of the U.S. government’s conditions for an American-PLO dialogue — without a recognition of a Palestinian right to self-determination in return, Seniora supported Arafat’s position in the U.S. Jordanian discussions that ended in failure last month.
With the collapse of the talks in Amman, Hussein delivered a lengthy television address, blaming the PLO for not living up to its word, and suggesting that the Palestinians should find a more responsible leadership.
Seniora, who met this week with State Department officials as part of his and Avneri’s two-week U.S. tour, said that in the aftermath of the Jordan PLO rift the Reagan Administration was according the Middle East a very low priority, but that “the partners to the conflict were trying to get some new fresh ideas.”
NATURE OF PROPOSED PEACE CONFERENCE
Speaking to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency following the press talk, he said he was “floating” the idea of “an international peace conference with no pre-conditions.” He said the invitation to the talks would be “not to Jordan, not to the PLO and not to Syria,” but “to a joint Arab delegation.”
“This way everyone will be satisfied,” he said. “The Syrians will have their pet idea, which is an Arab joint delegation; the Palestinians will have PLO-nominated people and the PLO can say ‘we appointed the Palestinians.’ King Hussein will also have the Syrians involved because this is what he wants anyway, and the Israelis can at the same time say ‘we are not talking to the PLO’.”
Seniora maintained that his idea was merely an extension of the 1973 Geneva conference that almost reconvened in 1977 but was dropped when the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat took up his own peace initiative. The Geneva conference, however, was initially based on UN Security Council Resolution 338, which called for the implementation of Resolution 242, rejected by Arafat.
Seniora said he was sounding out officials in Washington on the new suggestion but that he had not yet received a response. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs Richard Murphy is currently on a Middle East tour.
Last week Avneri raised the same suggestion to high-ranking officials in Amman, Avneri told the JTA. Avneri visited Jordan with a foreign passport and with what he said was the blessings of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres following the collapse of the Jordanian-PLO accord. But he said that he had committed himself not to disclose the contents of his discussions in Amman.
JUSTIFIES PALESTINIAN ‘ARMED STRUGGLE’ AGAINST ISRAEL
While stressing that the PLO was seeking a peaceful settlement with Israel, Seniora maintained that Palestinians had a right to continue the “armed struggle” against Israel in any part of the country.
Referring to a November resolution by Arafat in which he denounced terrorism only outside the occupied territories, Seniora said that “the area of struggle” that the PLO chief had in mind was all of mandated Palestine. Until there is an agreement between the Jewish and Palestinian national movements, Seniora said, “the whole area of Palestine is the area of struggle.”
Seniora maintained there was a difference between legitimate acts of resistance and attacks on Israeli civilians.
“If some Palestinian wants to throw a Molotov cocktail on an Israeli army jeep, this is a legitimate military target,” Seniora said. “And here we have differentiated between violence against civilians, which we condemn in the territories, and the area of the territories, and legitimate armed struggle for people who are seeking deliverance from occupation.”