Arafat Refrains from Recognizing Israel in Speech to U.N. in Geneva
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Arafat Refrains from Recognizing Israel in Speech to U.N. in Geneva

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Yasir Arafat offered no explicit recognition of Israel or renunciation of terrorism in his 90-minute speech to the U.N. General Assembly here Tuesday.

His only new, though not unexpected, appeal was for a United Nations force in the Israeli- administered territories “to protect our people and to supervise the withdrawal of the Israeli forces.”

At no point did the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman say he recognized Israel, though he did mention the Israeli people by name.

He called for an international peace conference to resolve the Middle East conflict on the basis of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, which recognize Israel only by implication.

Sources who expected Arafat to use the U.N. forum for more concrete commitments observed that his speech appeared to fall short of even the statement he issued Dec. 7 in Stockholm, where he met with an unofficial group of five American Jews.

On that occasion he clarified the positions adopted last month in Algiers by the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s legislative body, which declared an independent Palestinian state.

The reaction of Israel’s U.N. delegation to Arafat’s speech Tuesday was scornful. The Israelis absented themselves from the session, having decided that a demonstrative walkout when Arafat mounted the rostrum would be “too much of an honor.”


According to Ambassador Johanan Bein, the head of the Israeli delegation, the PLO chief showed himself “to be an expert in ambiguity and metaphors, but with no departure from what we have heard in Algiers, except for a few additional distortions of facts and history.”

U.S. Ambassador Vernon Walters sat through the speech. The American delegation will have to carefully study the text before responding, Joseph Petroni, the U.S. permanent representative to U.N. European headquarters in Geneva, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency later.

Arafat made clearly emotional appeals to American and Israeli public opinion. He urged the United States to implement the principles first articulated by President Woodrow Wilson after the first World War.

They are the inadmissability of the acquisition of territory by force and the right of peoples to self-determination.

“Do not deprive the Palestinians of what President Wilson prescribed,” Arafat declared.

To the Israelis he said, “Come, let us make peace. Cast away fear and intimidation, and set aside all threats of wars to come, whose fuel could only be the bodies of our children and yours.”

While Arafat condemned terrorism, he urge Third World countries to remember their own colonial past, when they were called terrorists because they fought for independence.

He also eulogized Khalil al-Wazir, known as Abu Jihad who headed up the PLO’s terrorist activities until he was assassinated at his home in Tunis last spring. He is widely believed to have been the victim of an Israeli “hit squad.”


Arafat addressed the General Assembly in the context of its annual debate on Palestine. The session was moved here from New York after the United States refused to grant him an entry visa.

The PLO chairman was received here with all of the protocol usually reserved for visiting chiefs of government.

The General Assembly will vote Thursday on his proposals that the U.N. secretary-general convene a preparatory committee for an international peace conference and that a U.N. force be sent to protect the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Both are considered virtually certain to pass, given the pro-Palestinian majority in the world body.

The assembly also is likely to pass a resolution drafted by the Arab countries that would upgrade PLO representation at the United Nations from non-governmental observer status to “observer of the Palestinian state.”

This change would enable the PLO to enjoy the same status accorded non-member states of the United Nations.

Meanwhile, some 60 Jewish student activists from the United States and European countries demonstrated here Tuesday on behalf of the “victims of the PLO.”

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