JERUSALEM (Dec. 1)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin this week found himself trying to explain a controversial analogy he drew between the World Zionist Organization and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
In a letter to Simcha Dinitz, chairman of the World Zionist Organization, Rabin said the comparison was intended only to illustrate the subordinate position to which the Tunis-based organization would be relegated after Palestinians in the administered territories assumed self-rule under an autonomy framework.
“The analogy with the PLO was intended solely to stress that the focus of (Palestinian) political decision-making will be transferred from abroad to Eretz Yisrael,” the prime minister wrote Dinitz.
Rabin was careful to stress the ongoing importance of the WZO after the establishment of the Jewish state.
He said the analogy “in no way relates to the importance of maintaining and strengthening the ties between Israel and the Diaspora, in which the WZO fulfills a central role.”
“The Zionist movement played a central role in the aliyah of half a million Jews to Israel during recent years,” the prime minister noted in the letter. “It is also active in Zionist education and in educating young people toward aliyah.
“I am certain that the World Zionist Organization has great national tasks ahead of it, and I send my greetings to those who undertake this work,” he wrote.
Rabin elicited a startled reaction when he made the comparison Sunday at a luncheon of newspaper editors. As he himself predicted on the spot, the remark generated headlines the next day.
Leaders of the opposition Likud bloc responded with wrath.
Knesset Member David Levy, a former foreign minister, said Rabin had implied the PLO would undertake the task of encouraging the Palestinian diaspora to immigrate to the territories following a political settlement.
Another Likud Knesset member, Michael Eitan, said Rabin had shown himself unfit to be prime minister.
Dinitz, a Labor Party ally of Rabin’s, said the remarks were ill chosen. But he told a radio interviewer it had not been the prime minister’s intention to criticize the WZO.