JERUSALEM (Mar. 17)
Israelis were upset anew today by President Carter’s remark last night that a homeland for the Palestinian refugees was one of the conditions for a lasting peace in the Middle East. Premier Yitzhak Rabin told news media this morning that the reference to a Palestinian homeland disturbed him. He observed, however, that it could be interpreted as a Palestinian-Jordanian homeland east of Israel to which Israel would have no objections.
Carter made his remarks in reply to questions at a “town meeting” in Clinton, Mass. He acknowledged that the Palestinians’ refusal to recognize Israel’s right to exist was one obstacle in the way of peace. The ingredients for lasting peace, he said, were recognition of Israel, the establishment of permanent borders for Israel and a homeland for Palestinian refugees.
Speaking to students in Tel Aviv, Rabin said “I would have been happier had he (Carter) used another term rather than that of homeland.” He added that he was in agreement with the President “if he means that such a homeland should be in Jordan.” But Rabin conceded that the Palestinian issue was one that could lead to serious differences between Israel and the U.S.
ALLON MORE OPTIMISTIC
Foreign Minister Yigal Allon took a more optimistic view of Carter’s remarks. Addressing a joint press conference with visiting West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher. Allon said the transcript of Carter’s statement showed that he was not necessarily implying the need for a separate Palestinian state on the West Bank when he spoke of a homeland for the Palestinians.
Allon noted that Carter made no mention of the PLO or of a separate state or any similar concept. He said in his “homeland” remark, the President referred to Palestinian refugees in the same context as Security Council Resolution 242 which the PLO violently opposes. He said that Carter also stressed that the Palestinian problem had to be dealt with by the “Arab countries negotiating with Israel.” The Israeli Foreign Minister added that he would not be surprised if an official clarification of Carter’s statement is forthcoming from Washington.
(In Washington, the State Department said today that Carter is “extraordinarily well briefed” on the Middle East and his statement last night “represents the cohesive and complete position of the United States government.” Asked repeatedly by angry reporters for clarification of the U.S. government’s position. Department spokesman Frederick Brown refused to go beyond Carter’s statement which, he said, “speaks very clearly for itself.”)
Israelis are already deeply disturbed by the Carter Administration’s failure to oppose an invitation UN Secretary General Kurt Waldheim extended to the PLO observer mission to attend the speech and reception for Carter at the UN tonight. They were only partly reassured by White House Press Secretary Jody Powell’s statement yesterday that “no political significance” is attached to the PLO presence, an assertion reiterated later by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance during a 40-minute meeting with Israeli Ambassador Simcha Dinitz.
The Israeli envoy met with Vance to convey his country’s “strong feeling and concern” that the PLO presence at the UN functions for Carter will be viewed by the Arabs as a U.S. shift to the PLO. Dinitz told reporters after the meeting that Vance assured him there was no change in America’s policy toward the PLO.
CAMPAIGN TO EXPLAIN DEFENSIBLE BORDERS
But Rabin, who returned from his visit to Washington Sunday, has been hard-pressed this week to explain Carter’s press conference remarks of last Wednesday that a full peace in the Mideast would require Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders with only “minor adjustments.” Yesterday, hours before Carter spoke in Clinton, Rabin told the Knesset that Israel would have to launch a major information campaign aimed at U.S. officials and public opinion to explain its position on defensible borders.
While Rabin sought to place Carter’s views on borders within the context of his other statements that coincided closely with Israel’s position–notably his definition of the nature of a Middle East peace and Israel’s need for defensible borders beyond its “legal” borders–the Premier conceded that the boundary issue was a source of friction with the U.S. He also admitted differences over the Palestinian issue but stressed that the U.S. still firmly backed Israel’s refusal to have any dealings with the PLO.
Rabin told the Knesset that “1977 will be a year of accelerated political activity both in the Mideast and the world at large.” He noted that the U.S. was aiming for an overall peace accord in the Middle East and, on a practical level, was seeking to reconvene the Geneva conference during the latter half of the year, after careful preparations.