WASHINGTON (May. 24)
A senior State Department official reiterated on Thursday the U.S. view that the Palestine Liberation Organization is adhering to its Dec. 14, 1988, statement renouncing terrorism.
John Kelly, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, defended the PLO’s compliance before a hostile House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on the Middle East.
The hearing came two months after the State Department released its first of three yearly studies on the PLO’s compliance with its December 1988 statement, which led to the start of a U.S. PLO dialogue in Tunisia.
The organized Jewish community and staunchly pro-Israel members of Congress have criticized the report as a U.S. “whitewash” of the PLO’s involvement in various infiltration attempts into Israel since that date.
The report noted nine infiltration attempts into Israel since the start of the dialogue, four of which were committed by PLO factions represented on its six-member executive committee. None of the acts were committed by Al Fatah, the main branch headed by PLO leader Yasir Arafat.
The United States does not consider the attacks to have violated the renunciation of terrorism because none was evidently planned or encouraged by the PLO executive committee or by Arafat personally.
LIKE ALICE IN WONDERLAND
No Israelis were killed in any of the four infiltration attempts by PLO factions, leading Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.) to argue that the United States would only consider similar attempts to be terrorist acts if “innocent Israeli blood is spilled.”
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) attacked many of Kelly’s statements.” ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is a scientific document compared to your testimony,” he remarked at one point.
The hearing focused on a definition of terrorism that Kelly said the State Department has been using for 21 years. “We consider terrorism to be premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine state agents, usually intended to influence an audience,” Kelly said.
Under sharp questioning, Kelly said that despite the definition, the PLO could not strike military targets in Israel and necessarily escape having the act labeled as terrorism.
But he refused to say that the definition was outdated, leading lawmakers such as Lantos to say, “We don’t trust your judgment” in evaluating PLO-attempted infiltrations into Israel.
Also, Kelly rejected the argument that in the Palestinian uprising, the Palestinians are committing acts of terrorism. Kelly quoted former Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin as saying that he did not consider such actions to constitute terrorism.
Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.) argued that “if the president of the United States renounced corruption but people in his Cabinet were found to be corrupt . . . and there’s no effort to expel or discipline, people would rightly conclude that the president’s renunciation of corruption had no meaning.”