WASHINGTON (Dec. 19)
If future acts of terrorism are traceable to the Palestine Liberation Organization, the United States will expect those involved to be expelled from the PLO, the State Department’s top specialist on the Middle East said Sunday.
In such a scenario, the United States “will expect the PLO leadership to disassociate itself” from the terrorist act and to take disciplinary action, “including expelling those involved from the organization,” said Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs. He spoke on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley” program.
President-elect George Bush reiterated that position on Monday, when he told a news conference that opening a dialogue with the PLO does not mean the United States is softening its opposition to terrorism.
“I don’t care whether it comes from a faction of the left or from the center or right or wherever. I don’t think that we should indicate any willingness to be tolerant of terrorism from the PLO,” Bush said.
But it appears that the United States will not hold the PLO accountable for continued violence in the Israeli-administered territories, as it will in other parts of the world.
Another top State Department policymaker drew a distinction Sunday between acts of terrorism and the year-old Palestinian uprising in the territories.
“The intifada when it emerged was not a byproduct of a PLO decision; it reflected a reaction to prolonged occupation. So the reaction of people to occupation is not going to cease immediately,” Michael Armacost, undersecretary of state for political affairs, said on CBS-TV’s “Face the Nation.”
Also speaking on the CBS program was Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who left the door open to talks with PLO members who are not “shooting or killing.”
‘READY TO SIT WITH EVERY PALESTINIAN’
Peres said he is “ready to sit with every Palestinian, no matter what his biography was, if he is not shooting and killing, if he is ready to talk, if he represents his people, and if he seeks peace.”
Asked about a possible next step for Israel to take, following the PLO’s move to recognize Israel, Peres said the his country must first see that Arafat’s renunciation of terrorism is sincere. “Let’s wait a month, a couple of months, and see if this is really going to happen,” Peres suggested.
A key obstacle to Israel believing Arafat is sincere may be whether it considers the PLO accountable for continued Palestinian violence in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Peres said he includes such violence as traceable to Arafat. “We see to include it, because for us, if a baby is being killed or wounded by a stone, what does it matter what is the name?”
He presented a challenge to the PLO on the West Bank. “If the Palestinians would stop violence right away, yesterday, the whole feeling, the whole emotions in Israel would be entirely different.”
Peres said he believes the PLO has recently moderated its position. “Until now the PLO would never say the expression which is called ‘peace’ or the expression which is called ‘Israel.’ They wanted Israel without a peace or a peace without an Israel.”
But, he added, “now the question is: Is that a change in the language or is that a change in the position?”
In contrast to Peres, Likud Knesset member Binyamin Netanyahu, appearing on the Brinkley show, seemed to reject any PLO moderation outright.
“The PLO uses declarations of peace as a tactic of war,” he said. He noted that Winston Churchill, Great Britain’s prime minister during World War II, “refused to have any dealings with Hitler” prior to or during the war.
He also argued that the opening of a U.S. dialogue with the PLO has “made peace much more difficult.”
Finally, on NBC-TV’s “Meet the Press,” White House Chief of Staff Kenneth Duberstein, who is Jewish, said the administration considered domestic fallout from U.S. Jews when reaching its decision to begin talks with the PLO.