Israel Said to Be Seeking Indirect Contact with PLO

Israel’s defense establishment is cautiously trying to establish an indirect political dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization abroad, according to Israeli press reports.

Israel has the unofficial blessings of the United States in that endeavor, Ron Ben-Yishai, the well-informed military affairs correspondent of Yediot Achronot, reported Wednesday.

According to Ben-Yishai, the objective is to open channels for a dialogue through mediators. When the time is ripe, this will facilitate direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to resolve the future of the administered territories.

Ben-Yishai said the defense establishment has concluded that without some sort of dialogue with the PLO, it will be impossible to end the uprising in the territories and promote a political process for a solution of the Palestinian problem.

Israel officially refuses to have any dealings with the PLO, and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has vowed it never will.

But according to Ben-Yishai, Shamir is fully aware of the initiative, which is being undertaken by Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

It is based on discreet talks with prominent Palestinian figures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, including strong supporters of the PLO.

The PLO leadership, for its part opposes operational or political negotiations with Israeli representatives through Palestinians in the territories.

Rabin is reportedly trying to overcome that resistance by having the Palestinians convey messages between Tel Aviv and PLO headquarters in Tunis –in effect an indirect dialogue with the PLO leadership.

U.S. EXPRESSES INTEREST

The U.S. administration in Washington has expressed great interest in Rabin’s plan and the attempts to implement it, Ben-Yishai wrote.

The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Qabas, quoted by Ha’aretz Wednesday, said the Americans have been conducting secret discussions with the PLO to determine ways to end the Palestinian uprising and to stop what it calls Israel’s “measures of suppression.”

Rabin’s initiative began when Shmuel Goren, the coordinator of government affairs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, met secretly in prison with Palestinian activist Faisal al-Husseini. A week later, on last Sunday, he was released from six months’ administrative detention.

Faisal is a PLO supporter, though he is said to differ with it on some issues. He commands great respect among Palestinians in the territories, militants and moderates alike.

Hundreds have visited him at home since his release from prison to express their support, including youths active in the uprising, Ma’ariv reported Wednesday.

Ma’ariv said Husseini told his supporters he is trying to facilitate political moves and has no intention of separating Palestinians in the territories from the PLO leadership abroad.

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