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Klutznick: Mideast Peace Requires Solution of Palestinian Problem but the PLO Must ‘bite the Bullet’

December 18, 1981
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Philip Klutznick, former president of the World Jewish Congress, said yesterday that a Middle East peace settlement requires a solution of the Palestinian problem but that first the Palestine Liberation Organization must announce its willingness to accept the State of Israel.

“At some point the PLO has got to bite the bullet,” he said at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommitttee on Europe and the Middle East. He was joined at the hearing by Harold Saunders, former Assistant Secretary of State for Near East and South Asian Affairs; Merle Thorpe, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace; and John Greene, president of the Seven Springs Center of Mt. Kisco, New York.

The four men, who visited Israel, Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia last August, testified on their report, just published by the Seven Springs Center, which called on the U.S. to increase its role as a middleman in the Middle East peace process.

The report, which warned that hopes for a negotiated peace in the Middle East “are fading,” also stated that “no peace will be possible without the Palestine Liberation Organization being involved in the process.”

It also called on the U.S. to “wed military and diplomatic strength in a coherent strategy” that goes beyond the Camp David process between Israel and Egypt and to mount “a parallel campaign” that would involve other Mideastern states — Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Syria — in peace talks with Israel. Last month, Klutznick, in an Op-Ed page article in The Washington Post, expressed views similar to those contained in the report.


At yesterday’s hearing he noted that the PLO does not speak with one voice, but also said it would have to decide to renounce the use of force. Rep. Paul Findley (R. III.), said PLO chief Yasir Arafat has told him on several occasions that the PLO is abandoning force. But Klutznick observed that every time such a statement is made by a PLO official, it is immediately withdrawn by another PLO official.

Saunders and Klutznick stressed that the U.S. has to move energetically to push the Camp David process to a conclusion. Klutznick said this required a successful outcome of the autonomy talks. Saunders said that at the same time, the U.S. should be seeking a method to bring Israel’s eastern neighbors including the Palestinians, into the effort to

reach a peace settlement similar to the one Israel achieved with Egypt. Klutznick warned that if the Camp David process is allowed to fail, it would be years before such a process could be attempted again.


Klutznick rejected the view that the Saudi effort at the Arab summit meeting in Fez, Morocco recently failed because the eight-point plan prepared by Crown Prince Fahd was not accepted. He said the plan is still alive and that the eight-points are nothing more than an “opening gambit” for negotiations with Israel. He noted that the late President Anwar Sadat’s original proposals also were not fully acceptable to Israel. But the Saudis are still willing to continue the effort, he said.

Saunders called Israel’s action this week to annex the Golan Heights “destructive of the peace process” because it was a unilateral act. He said the whole idea of the Camp David process is not to take unilateral actions but to seek to negotiate all steps. He said the Golan action undermined Egypt’s credibility because Egypt was trying to convince other Arab countries that the way to achieve their goals was through negotiations with Israel.

Klutznick said he would not comment on the Golan issue since he is going to Israel Friday and will learn the facts behind the Israeli decision. Before the hearing, he told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that his mail has been 45-I in support of his remarks since he took a public stand recently on bringing the PLO into the peace negotations. He said the mail came from Jews and non-Jews alike.

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