Tough American Stand Credited for Defeat of PLO Initiative

Jewish leaders and Israeli officials are crediting the tough stand taken by the United States for the defeat of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s push to be recognized as a state by the General Assembly.

Even before the resolution upgrading the PLO mission’s status to that of an observer state was introduced by the Arab bloc last week, the U.S. State Department and its mission here went on the offensive, threatening to cut off the U.S. contribution to the U.N. budget should the resolution be adopted.

The U.S. pressure proved to be successful Wednesday, when the 16 Arab countries that had sponsored the resolution agreed to postpone consideration of the matter indefinitely.

General Assembly President Joseph Garba formally announced the Arab states’ agreement to the world body Wednesday afternoon.

A day earlier, Garba had urged the Arab states to postpone consideration of the resolution. But along with that request came criticism of the U.S. tactic of threatening to cut off its contribution, which accounts for 25 percent of the U.N. headquarters budget.

That threat also met criticism last week from U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar and was even more bluntly denounced by Arab officials, who called it “blackmail.”

American Jewish leaders, however, were full of praise for the U.S. move.

“The courageous support of the United States for the integrity of the General Assembly inspires respect for its deep commitment to the rule of law,” said Harris Schoenberg, director of U.N. affairs for B’nai B’rith International.

SOVIET POSITION NOTED

The PLO’s backing down was “a clear demonstration” that when the American government takes a strong stand, it can successfully battle Arab influence at the U.N., said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

The pro-PLO forces “constantly probe for weakness,” said Hoenlein. “When they see resilience and that people are firm, they back off.”

Hoenlein and others also stressed the significance of the Soviet Union’s signals that it stood with the United States and the Western European countries against the upgrading of the PLO’s status.

An Israeli diplomatic source said that the Soviet position was taken not only to curry favor with the United States, but because recognizing an essentially non-existent state could set a dangerous precedent.

If such a move had been allowed, any of the discontented nationalities within the Soviet Union conceivably could also go to the United Nations and ask to be recognized as a state, the source said.

The source added that it must have been clear to the Arab states that if they brought the resolution to the floor, it would not pass.

The U.S. and Israel had planned to combat the measure in the same way they face down the annual Arab challenge to Israel’s credentials. A third country would have introduced a resolution to indefinitely postpone the vote, and a majority of U.N. members would have approved the move.

Dr. George Gruen, director of Israel and Middle East Affairs for the American Jewish Committee, said he was hopeful that this setback would encourage the PLO to “emphasize practical benefits for the Palestinians living in the territories,” as opposed to finding a “forum for its polemics” within the United Nations.

Over the past year, similar moves by the PLO for full-fledged membership in U.N. agencies have also been unsuccessful, usually resulting in postponement of consideration of their membership.

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