NEW YORK (Nov. 16)
Reactions by major American Jewish groups to the Palestine National Council’s deliberations in Algiers combine Israel’s scorn and the U.S. State Department’s position that the Palestine Liberation Organization has not gone far enough in changing its positions.
Morris Abram said Wednesday that he saw “nothing positive” in declarations by the council, often referred to as the PLO’s parliament in exile.
Early Tuesday, PLO Chairman Yasir Arafat declared a Palestinian state and a PLO commitment to making U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 the basis for negotiating peace with Israel.
Adopted in 1967, Resolution 242 calls for Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands in exchange for peace and recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
As chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Abram called a news conference to announce that American Jews are “deeply suspicious” of the PNC’s deliberations.
According to a Conference of Presidents release, Abram met with or spoke to representatives of nearly all 46 of his umbrella organization’s constituents.
He said they urged him to “speak out and make clear that the U.S. Jewish community is not deceived by the PLO public relations campaign.”
Abram repeated to reporters the conditions he believes the PLO must meet for their pronouncements to have any meaning. They include renouncing terrorism, explicitly recognizing Israel and unequivocally accepting 242.
The PNC has so far only accepted 242 within a package of other U.N. Security Council and General Assembly resolutions relevant to Israel, including the 1975 “Zionism equals racism” resolution.
Until they accept those conditions, said Abram, the PLO has only “decided for propaganda use to create an impression of moderation on behalf of violence.”
Seymour Reich, international president of B’nai B’rith, called its declaration of a Palestinian state “a triumph of style over substance.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, criticized Arafat’s calling for an international conference on the basis of 242.
Arafat has “long been willing to have a conference on this basis because so many U.N. resolutions, including the famous ‘Zionism is racism’ one, condemn Israel and question the Jewish state’s legitimacy.”
Among smaller groups, there is still much skepticism but also a hope that the PLO may have begun a process of change that should be encouraged.
“What we did not see is an unequivocal recognition of Israel or renunciation of violence,” said Mark Gold, predident of Americans for Progressive Israel.
“But what happened is a positive step and should be recognized as such. The PNC’s moves are not a basis for negotiation, but they are a basis for a wider dialogue and we should encourage that.”