U.S. Could Suspend PLO Dialogue, but Decision Awaits Baker’s Return

The Bush administration is still pondering whether to continue its dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization following last week’s attempted raid on Israeli beaches by a PLO-affiliated terrorist group.

Both the White House and the State Department said Tuesday that the administration was still studying whether the PLO had violated its December 1988 pledge renouncing terrorism.

The raid was conducted by the Palestine Liberation Front, led by Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, a member of the PLO’s executive committee and a close adviser to PLO leader Yasir Arafat.

Administration sources have indicated that no decision will be made before Secretary of State James Baker returns Saturday from Europe.

But Vice President Dan Quayle’s chief of staff gave Jewish leaders strong reason Tuesday to believe that the dialogue with the PLO could be suspended, if not entirely discontinued.

Speaking in New York at a luncheon hosted by the Zionist Organization of America, William Kristol said he doubted Arafat would accede to U.S. requests to denounce the terrorist attack and expel Abbas from the PLO executive committee.

“Therefore, the present dialogue between the United States and the PLO could well be suspended,” said Kristol.

Both the ZOA and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith sent letters to Baker this week urging the United States to disengage from the dialogue with the PLO.

“Anything less than the immediate abrogation of the dialogue would make a mockery of the original purpose behind the talks — to encourage moderation, instead of violence, as a vehicle toward Middle East peace,” wrote Burton Levinson, ADL’s national chairman, and Abraham Foxman, its national director.

KLINGHOFFER DAUGHTER LOBBIES SENATE

Two individuals who have written to Baker are Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, whose father, Leon Klinghoffer, was brutally murdered by Abbas’ group in 1985 when it hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro. They believe Baker should have no trouble deciding whether to break off talks with the PLO.

Lisa Klinghoffer was in Washington on Tuesday lobbying senators to pressure the Bush administration to break off the dialogue with the PLO. Accompanying her was Mark Medin, assistant director of ADL’s Washington office.

“I feel it is a sham,” she said of Arafat’s December 1988 renunciation of terrorism. “He just continued to do what he has always done.”

“Arafat has never to this day disowned Abul Abbas,” said Klinghoffer. “They are very close friends; they embrace each other in public.”

She noted that Abbas has never shown remorse for the death of her father, who was in a wheelchair when he was thrown off the ship by members of the Palestine Liberation Front. When Abbas was asked about it at the 1988 Palestine National Council meeting, he joked, “Maybe he was trying to swim for it,” Klinghoffer recalled.

She said that not only should Arafat renounce the attempted raid and expel Abbas from the PLO, but he should turn Abbas over to Italy, where he was indicted in absentia.

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