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Opinions Still Vary in Israel over U.S. Talks with the PLO

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The government’s appeal to the United States this week to break all contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization reflects only one body of opinion in a polarized nation run by a limited caretaker government.

The basis for the urgent message to Washington was the aborted seaborne terrorist attack on Israeli beaches May 30, which had the potential to kill or maim countless innocent civilians.

Transport Minister Moshe Katsav, speaking for the Likud interim regime, said a breaking off of the U.S.-PLO dialogue would “contribute to peace and stability in the region and advance the peace process.”

Katsav spoke in the Knesset on Monday where 12 separate agenda motions on the raid were pending.

Acting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, whose deadline to form a new government expires at midnight Thursday, sent the same plea to Washington.

“Cut off your contacts with terror organizations, if not for our sake, then for the sake of peace,” the prime minister urged.

But there is more than one set of opinions in the Knesset.

NO CHOICE BUT PLO NEGOTIATIONS

Amir Peretz of the Labor Party said that ultimately there is no choice but to negotiate with the PLO, directly or indirectly, “and not with anonymous residents of the territories.”

He was referring to the Shamir government’s refusal to talk to any Palestinians except residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip who have no links whatever to the PLO.

Haim Oron of Mapam urged the PLO to dissociate itself from the terrorist attack.

Oron said the Israeli right wing maintains “there is no one to talk to” on the Palestinian side, and is trying to implant that perception in the public mind.

Its aim, therefore, is identical to that of the Palestine Liberation Front, which conducted the raid in order to prevent the peace process from advancing, the Mapam Knesset member charged.

Several members spoke of Israel’s need for a more effective propaganda effort overseas.

But according to Geula Cohen of the rightwing Tehiya party, it would only be undermined by “the left’s anti-Israel positions, both on the question of the territories and settlement.”

The U.S.-PLO dialogue began in December 1988, after PLO chief Yasir Arafat publicly renounced terrorism and said that the PLO accepted U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, which implies Israel’s right to exist.

That statement met U.S. conditions for beginning talks with the PLO.

But Israel insisted from the outset that it was fraudulent and has ascribed a number of terrorist incidents since then to the PLO.

The May 30 raid was carried out by the PLF, a PLO constituent group whose leader, Mohammed (Abul) Abbas, is a member of the 15-man PLO executive committee.

Arafat, while claiming the PLO had no part in the action, refused to condemn it unequivocally and said he lacked authority to oust Abbas from the Executive Committee.

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