Australian Jewish leaders have warned its government that a visit by the head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s political department “is directly against the interest of peace” and has “the potential to incite antagonism and ill will.”
Farouk Kaddoumi, sometimes referred to as the PLO’s “foreign minister,” has taken up a long-standing invitation to participate in the Australian government’s special visits program, designed to bring a range of views on international affairs before Australian policymakers.
The Tunis-based diplomat, who has at times criticized PLO chairman Yasser Arafat since Israel and the PLO signed a self-rule accord in September 1993, is due to arrive in Australia later this month.
Isi Leibler, president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, has written to Prime Minister Paul Keating, arguing that “the Australian government has an outstanding record of support for the complex and difficult negotiations between Israel and the various Arab parties.”
Leibler also said: “Much good work may be undone by the visit of Mr. Kaddoumi, who represents a serious threat to the entire process of Israeli-Arab reconciliation.”
Ann Zablud, the Zionist Federation of Australia president, protested the visit in a letter to Foreign Minister Gareth Evans.
Saying that Kaddoumi is “absolutely against” the 1993 Oslo accord, Zablud urged Evans to “review” the invitation.
The PLO representative in Australia, Ali Kazak, defended Kaddoumi, saying he is a supporter of peace who “had reservations” about the peace process.