JERUSALEM (Dec. 13)
Israel had two official reactions to Yasir Arafat’s speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva.
While both were negative, they reflected the different approaches of the two major parties, Likud and Labor, toward the Palestine Liberation Organization.
According to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, the Likud leader, Arafat’s speech was “an act of monumental deception.”
He made clear at a news conference that Israel will have nothing whatsoever to do with the PLO, under any circumstances.
The Foreign Ministry, headed by Labor Party leader Shimon Peres, seemed less adamant. There was no news conference.
But according to an Israel Radio report, ministry officials saw “an improvement” in Arafat’s references to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which recognize Israel by implication.
Still, they felt the PLO chief offered nothing new by way of recognizing Israel’s right to exist and renouncing terrorism.
By contrast, a left-wing Knesset member said Arafat had gone “much more than half way” toward meeting Israel’s conditions for negotiations. Yossi Sarid of the dovish Citizens Rights Movement said Israel should negotiate with Arafat and thereby “put him to the test.”
Shamir, for his part, considers the PLO “inherently incapable” of changing its basic positions, which call for the eradication of Israel, and encourage violence and terrorism.
Israel “shall not recognize the PLO under any conditions,” Shamir insisted. He said the PLO is “not a negotiating partner” for Israel, but a collection of terrorist groups out to destroy the Jewish state.
Shamir added that Arafat’s “diplomatic assault” at the United Nations makes it all the more urgent for Israel to have a unity government. Labor and Likud resumed negotiations this week for a broad-based coalition, but have made little progress, as far as is known.
Shamir plainly saw his news conference as part of an international battle for world opinion with the PLO. He said Israel and the PLO were locked in a “contest in public relations.”
He ended with a plea to “Israel’s neighbors and the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael” to negotiate “without preconditions” for peace. He said anyone truly seeking peace “will find in us faithful partners.”