SYDNEY, Australia (Sep. 17)
Australia, which has sent a naval force to the Persian Gulf to help deter Iraqi aggression, has no plans, at least now, to end its contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, whose leaders are among the few in the Arab world who support Saddam Hussein.
On Sunday night, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans disappointed a pro-Israel audience in Melbourne with his ambiguous attitude toward the PLO. But he criticized its leaders and tempered his statements with praise for Israel’s behavior in the Gulf crisis.
Addressing a public meeting organized by the Labor Friends of Israel, the Laborite minister blasted PLO chief Yasir Arafat, other PLO leaders and many of the Palestinian rank and file.
He said their reactions to Hussein’s occupation of Kuwait ranged from outright support to pathetic apologies.
Evans also accused the PLO leadership of riding the coattails of demagogic appeals to anti-Western and anti-Israel sentiment.
But he nevertheless maintained that Arafat and the PLO leadership have not backed away from the positions they took at a news conference during the Geneva session of the U.N. General Assembly in December 1988.
It was in that forum that Arafat made remarks widely interpreted as a renunciation of terrorism and acceptance of Israel’s right to exist. Following that, Australia upgraded its contacts with the PLO and opened a high-level dialogue.
The government has not yet responded to the urgings of Australian Jewry to suspend that dialogue.
The appeal was made jointly by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and the Zionist Federation of Australia. They cited factors they said constituted evidence that terrorism and the destruction of Israel were still key elements of the PLO’s platform.
Evans said last week during a foreign policy discussion at the University of Sydney that Australia wants to continue its dialogue with the PLO.