WASHINGTON (Nov. 14)
The State Department expressed its displeasure Monday that a terrorist convicted of murdering a disabled American Jew during the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise ship Achille Lauro was participating in the Palestine National Council’s meeting in Algiers.
“We find it extraordinary that a convicted murderer would do that,” department spokeswoman Phyllis Oakley said. “He should be brought to justice.”
Oakley was referring to Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, who was convicted in absentia of murdering Leon Klinghoffer, a 69-year-old New York Jew confined to a wheelchair. During the hijacking, Klinghoffer was shot and pushed overboard.
Abbas, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s executive committee who masterminded the hijacking of the ship on the Mediterranean, was sentenced by an Italian court to life in prison.
Oakley called “repugnant” remarks Abbas made about Klinghoffer on Sunday in an interview with reporters outside the convention hall where the PNC was meeting. “They demonstrate once again the little regard such terrorists have for human life,” she said.
According to The New York Times, Abbas told reporters the hijacking was “like driving a car” in which “you have an accident.”
Asked about Klinghoffer’s murder, he first asked, “Who is Klinghoffer?” But according to the Times, he then said with a half smile, “Maybe he was trying to swim for it.”
POLICY ON PLO UNCHANGED
As for the PNC meeting, Oakley said she would have no comment about reports that the PNC, the policy-making body of the PLO, plans to accept United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which implicitly recognizes Israel.
Oakley said there would no comment until the PNC issues its “final definitive statement at the end of the meeting” Tuesday.
However, both President Reagan and President-elect George Bush welcomed the reports, although they cautioned that the PLO would still have to take further steps.
Oakley stressed that “our policy has not changed” on the PLO. Since 1975, the United States has maintained that it will have no dealings with the PLO until its recognizes Israel’s right to exist, accepts Resolution 242 and renounces terrorism.
In New York meanwhile, a major American Jewish leader said any PLO acceptance of Resolution 242 would be “meaningless” unless the organization renounces terrorism and states “for all to hear its acceptance of Israel’s legitimate right to statehood in the Middle East.”
Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said in a statement that the PLO remains unfit to come to the negotiating table until it stops sending armed bands against Israeli civilian targets and renounces its National Covenant, which calls for the destruction of Israel.
Abram also said the PLO must repudiate the “three Nos” of the Arab League’s Khartoum declaration of 1967, which forbids recognition, negotiation and peace with Israel.