WASHINGTON (Jun. 8)
Members of Congress and American Jewish leaders have criticized the State Department for a recent report concluding that the Palestine Liberation Organization is abiding by its commitments to Israel.
The report, released June 1, also states that in light of the PLO’s compliance, the State Department has decided to allow the group to establish a diplomatic mission here.
The 14-page PLO Commitments Compliance Report outlines more than a dozen incidents since January when Palestinian leaders failed to condemn terrorism against Israel.
It also recounts statements by Arafat and his supporters advocating violence, including a May 10 speech at a Johannesburg mosque where PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat called for a “jihad” for Jerusalem.
And yet despite saying in the report that “the PLO should do more to condemn violence in a timely, authoritative and unambiguous fashion,” the State Department concluded that “the PLO is abiding by its commitments.”
The report drew widespread criticism from Jewish groups and their allies on Capitol Hill.
“Unfortunately, the report too often excuses the PLO’s failure to respond to terrorism and seeks to limit the PLO’s responsibility to condemn all acts of terrorism,” said Neal Sher, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
THE PLO’S ‘WEAK AND INADEQUATE’ RESPONSE
Arafat pledged in a September 1993 letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin to renounce the use of terrorism and violence and to assume responsibility for all PLO elements and personnel. The letter also confirmed Arafat’s commitment to recognize Israel’s right to exist.
“On the few occasions when the PLO has spoken, its language in response to terrorist attacks has been weak and inadequate. In no instance has any PLO official stated unequivocally that Israelis should not be attacked,” Sher said.
Despite the criticism of the State Department report, AIPAC officials confirmed their support for the peace process and praised the efforts of the Clinton administration in that regard.
Israeli officials here refused to comment directly on the report, saying it is an American document between government agencies.
Regarding the PLO’s compliance with the peace accord, however, one official said, “We definitely not only expect but demand the PLO comply with the statements made in the letter from Arafat to Prime Minister Rabin.”
Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, which has been critical of the peace process, blasted the State Department report.
“The PLO is not abiding by anything. This administration should make it clear that U.S. taxpayers’ money will not go to the PLO until it shows it has transformed itself from a terrorist group,” he said.
Klein made reference to the fact that the House of Representatives last month approved $78 million in aid to the PLO for roads, housing and infrastructure development in the newly autonomous Gaza Strip and Jericho.
Rep. James Saxton (R-N.J.), co-founder of the Congressional Peace Accord Monitoring Group, called on President Clinton to “insist Yasser Arafat live up to the words he uttered on the lawn of the White House, condemn terrorism and express his dissatisfaction with the inaction by the PLO.”
Saxton said the United States should consider further steps, including holding off on any American aid to the PLO, because “Arafat in no way has lived up to the agreements.”
His bipartisan monitoring group, which includes 45 members of Congress, was drafting a coordinated response this week to condemn the State Department report.
In light of the State Department’s decision that the PLO is in compliance with its end of the declaration of principles with Israel, officials plan to designate a foreign mission for the PLO in the United States.
The office will differ from an embassy, in that its personnel will have no diplomatic status, privileges or immunity.
Sen. Alfonse D’Amato (D-N.Y.) said the decision to grant a mission is “outrageous.
“Instead of a jihad for Jerusalem, Arafat should have called for a jihad for peace,” D’Amato said, referring to the Johannesburg speech. “The State Department might think the PLO is in compliance with the peace agreement, but this senator thinks the PLO still has a long way to go.”