TEL AVIV (Mar. 27)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir has lodged a strong official protest with the United States against Secretary of State George Shultz’s meeting in Washington Saturday with two prominent members of the Palestine National Council.
The PNC, sometimes referred to as the Palestinian parliament in exile, is a legislative body purporting to represent the Palestinian nationalist movement. It sets overall policy for the Palestine Liberation Organization, and therefore Israel regards the council as an adjunct of the PLO.
Shamir voiced his protest in a formal note presented to U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering Friday, after he learned the meeting would take place. In Washington, Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad conveyed a similar protest Friday to the U.S. State Department.
Shultz met with two Palestinian-born American academicians, Professors Edward Said of Columbia University and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod of Northwestern University.
Simultaneously with that meeting, the State Department announced that Shultz will visit the Middle East again, beginning April 3, to continue the diplomatic approach for peace that the United States has pursued without substantial results in the last two months.
In his protest, Shamir stressed that Israel views the meeting as a violation of a 1975 memorandum of understanding in which Washington pledged to have no contact whatever with the PLO until it meets specific conditions, including recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
The 1975 memorandum of understanding was given Israel by then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger during negotiations for armistice agreements between Israel and Egypt and Israel and Syria in the aftermath of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. It was considered binding on all future administrations.
Pickering reportedly told Shamir that the American government makes a distinction between the PLO and the PNC.
‘NO CHANGE IN U.S. POLICY’
In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley affirmed Friday, in a statement to the news media, that “there is no change in U.S. policy on negotiations with or recognizing the PLO. That policy remains as it has since 1975.”
The statement apparently satisfied the concerns of one American Jewish leader. As long as the State Department reaffirms its ban on negotiations with the PLO, “it’s hard to fault (Shultz) for making a judgment of this kind,” said Hyman Bookbinder, American Jewish Committee’s special representative in Washington.
But in New York, B’nai B’rith International issued a statement Sunday deploring the meeting, noting that the PNC is “the legislative body of the PLO long known to the world as an outlaw terrorist organization.”
The group’s international president, Seymour Reich, called the meeting “a retreat from previous policy.”
“We hope that whatever Secretary Shultz has in mind does not include giving legitimacy to murderous terrorists,” he said.
(Washington correspondent Howard Rosenberg contributed to this story.)