Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Behind the Headlines Chance Encounters or Policy?

August 17, 1979
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The resignation yesterday of Andrew Young as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations has touched off a great deal of speculation here as to whether he was acting on his own initiative when he met with Zehadi Labib Terzi, the PLO observer at the UN.

This speculation was prompted by the revelation yesterday that Milton Wolf, the U.S. Ambassador to Austria, had met three times with PLO representatives. Unlike Young, who first insisted that his encounter with Terzi was simply, an exchange of social amenities after “inadvertently” meeting him at the home of UN Kuwaiti Ambassador Abdolla Yaccoub Bishara, and then conceded that Security Council matters were discussed, Wolf briefed the State Department on his first two meetings.

But unlike Young, who was rebuked Tuesday by Secretary of State Cyrus Vance for his meeting with Terzi, Wolf was neither rebuked nor reprimanded. He was merely “reminded” of the official U.S. policy toward the PLO, which is not to talk to any of its representatives until the PLO accepts Security Council Resolution 242 and recognizes Israel’s right to exist within secure and recognized borders. The question that the State Department did not seem in a hurry to answer yesterday was why Wolf was merely “reminded” and why he has met again for a third time despite the reminder. Today, the State Department said that the matter is closed. (See related story P.3.)


One gnawing question was whether other American diplomats have also met with PLO of ficials either “inadvertently” or by “chance encounter.” Another question was whether the diplomats are ignoring the guidance of their superiors on official U.S. policy or whether the guidance has been lax enough and U.S. policy fuzzy enough to provide the rationalization for meetings with PLO officials.

In addition to these speculations and questions there were others, including who will be Young’s successor; whether his resignation will further harden Arab opposition to the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty in view of immediate reactions on the part of many Arab spokesmen here, at the UN and in the Mideast that Young resigned’ under “Zionist-Israeli” pressure; and whether the Ambassador’s departure will strain relations between Jews and Blacks Some Black leaders are intimating that the attacks by Jewish leaders against Young, including calls for his dismissal, was a cause for Young’s resignation, this despite the fact that a number of leading non-Jewish Congressmen also called for his resignation.


In his letter of resignation to President Carter, Young stated; “I have always acted in behalf of what I felt was the best interest of our nation, though often it has been interpreted to the contrary. I want you to fulfill the tremendous promise of your Administration, and that depends to a great extent on a settlement in the Middle East. It is therefore extremely embarrassing that my actions, however well-intentioned, may have hampered the peace process. In order to avoid any further complications, I would like to offer my resignation …”

At a press conference at the White House after he handed Carter his letter of resignation, Young said he did not feel victimized as a result of the Uproar caused by on meeting with lerzi, Ashed if he supported U.S. policy not to deal with the PLO, Young said “I don’t. But I understand it.” He added: “I don’t think a conversation implies recognition.” The envoy also affirmed, “I don’t feel a bit sorry for a thing I have done. I could not say to anybody, given the same situation, I wouldn’t do it again almost exactly the same way.”

Carter, in accepting Young’s letter of resignation, expressed “deep regret” and praised him for “your superb performance in a most difficult assignment” and “your dedication and sensitivity.” Vance, in a written statement, expressed no regret but praised the envoy’s “exceptional contributions as our Ambassador to the United Nations.”


Meanwhile, one Senator called for a meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at once to study American policy. Sen. Jacob Javits (R. NY) stated: “The action of Ambassador Young in contacting the PLO was highly injudicious and contrary to the policy of the United States. I am therefore asking the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Senate of which I am the ranking member to call a meeting of the committee promptly during the Senate recess.

“We should ascertain what is the policy of the United States and what the policy of the United States is going to be in view of the fact that the President has promised both Egypt and Israel in the Camp David accords that these negotiations with the PLO would not take place and that we would not open any negotiations with them or anybody else who did not recognize the existence of Israel, UN Resolution 242, and the right of Israel to live with in secure and recognized borders.”

Recommended from JTA