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Muskie on the PLO

July 8, 1980
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State Edmund Muskie said today that “perhaps we must” recognize the Palestine Liberation Organization “at some point of course,” but not before Israel, Egypt and the U.S. reach agreement on autonomy for the West Bank and Gaza.

Muskie, addressing the Foreign Policy Association in New York, was asked by the chairman, Time magazine editor-in-chief Henry Grunwold, whether “anything has changed” since King Hussein of Jordan visited Washington last month and if the U.S. is “any closer forward recognizing or feeling the need to recognize the PLO.”

Muskie, in reply to the question, as obtained here, said in part: “Perhaps we must do it at some point, of course, to broaden the negotiating base to include representatives of the Palestinian people in the other countries in the area. For the moment, that broadening does not seem to be possible. We continue to have dialogues, of course, with countries such as Jordan. We find that to be useful so that we can make clear to each other precisely what our attitude and perceptions of the moment may be…, “The point that strikes me about it all, more than anything else, is that this is the only time in the whole history of the Middle East that Palestinian rights and Israel’s security have been on the agenda at the negotiating process.

“I hear complaints – from Arab countries, the left and the right, our European friends and others – that we are not getting anywhere. This is the only process that has gotten anywhere and we are now head-to-head on the toughest issues — those dealing with autonomy.

“Any diversionary tactics that tend to pull the parties back from that confrontation sets back the possibility of reaching agreement – not that it is going to be easy to reach decisions with respect to autonomy, the rights of the Palestinians and the security of Israel. But the process has got to continue. At some point, if the parties manage to press that process to an agreement, then the challenge will be to broaden the negotiating base to include others. You can’t settle Palestinian rights altogether in a negotiating process that does not include them, though I hasten to add, they’ve been invited.

“The Camp David process certainly provides for their inclusion. But I think we have to achieve something more by way of agreement, especially with respect to autonomy before we have any prospect of broadening the base. For the purpose of improving the possibility of broadening the base at some point, it is important to meet with King Hussein and others in the area from time to time. It is difficult to understand why all that should be thrown away for some ambiguous, unstructured alternative that is usually offered for the purpose of diverting attention from the process rather than supporting its objective.”

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