WASHINGTON (Dec. 13)
The U.S. State Department, the Israeli Embassy here and several major American Jewish groups expressed disappointment Tuesday over Yasir Arafat’s statements to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva.
Arafat did not meet the conditions set by the United States for a dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization, the State Department said.
Department spokesman Charles Redman stressed that if Arafat meets the conditions, the United States is ready for a “substantive dialogue” with the PLO.
“The United States listened carefully to Mr. Arafat’s speech,” Redman said several hours after the PLO leader addressed the General Assembly debate on Palestine. The debate was moved from New York to Geneva, after Secretary of State George Shultz refused Arafat a visa to enter the United States.
“The speech contained some interesting and positive elements,” Redman said. “But it continued to be ambiguous on the key issues which must be clearly addressed in order for the United States to enter a substantive dialogue with the PLO.
“Those issues are acceptance of (U.N. Security Council) Resolutions 242 and 338, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, rejection of terrorism in all forms.
“These issues must be addressed clearly, squarely, without ambiguity. That didn’t happen,” Redman said.
Asked if Arafat had met any of the conditions, Redman replied, “There are problems with all three.”
The Israeli Embassy in Washington released a statement saying, “Those who expected a clear disillusioned.”
U.S. POSITION CHANGE WAS RUMORED
Arafat’s U.N. speech “is a continuation of an effort to create a perception of change in the PLO’s position. The speech proves that the PLO and its chairman continue to adhere to the (PLO) Covenant and its objectives.”
The PLO Covenant calls for armed struggle against Israel, leading to its destruction.
Redman’s remarks came after speculation in Washington and Jerusalem all Tuesday morning that the United States was ready to announce, after Arafat’s speech, that it was prepared to begin talks with the PLO.
This speculation was broadcast by Israel Radio after it first appeared Monday night on NBC-TV.
The Washington Post said that such a message was conveyed to Arafat through Swedish diplomatic channels.
Diplomatic sources here said the Swedes had informed the U.S. government that Arafat would meet the longstanding U.S. conditions in his remarks to the General Assembly.
According to the sources, Charles Hill, a close aide to Secretary of State Shultz, telephoned Moshe Arad, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, to say that if the Swedish report was true, the United States would open talks with the PLO.
Redman denied that the United States had dealt with Arafat through Sweden or other countries. He also denied that the United States had seen an advance copy of Arafat’s speech or any of the early drafts.
But he said the United States had responded to requests from third parties for specifics on its conditions, which he noted had been U.S. policy for years.
“We did receive from third parties suggestions that, in fact, Arafat was prepared to be clear on the conditions,” Redman added. “That didn’t happen.”
JEWISH GROUPS DISAPPOINTED
But Redman acknowledged that there has been “some movement in the right direction” from the PLO. He said the United States “encourages this type of movement.”
American Jewish organizations expressed disappointment at Arafat’s words in Geneva.
In similar statements, leaders of the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, B’nai B’rith International, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and the Union of American Hebrew Congregations said Arafat failed to recognize Israel unequivocally, fully renounce terrorism and accept Resolutions 242 and 338 without clauses that negate them.
“Yasir Arafat had an opportunity to break with the past and launch a new peace initiative. He blew it,” said Morris Abram, chairman of the Conference of Presidents.
The Zionist Organization of America said Arafat’s speech proved he is “not a rehabilitated terrorist.” It criticized the United Nations, Great Britain, Sweden and a group of American Jews for providing the PLO various forums over the past week.
“Yasir Arafat has failed again,” Abraham Foxman, national director of ADL, concurred.
Said Warren Eisenberg, director of international concerns for B’nai B’rith: “For some reason, the straightforward, unequivocal words ‘We recognize the State of Israel’ remain stuck in Yasir Arafat’s throat.”
Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the UAHC, found the Arafat speech “bitterly disappointing.” Last week, Schindler said Arafat’s recent statements in Stockholm appeared to be a “step in the right direction.”