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PLO Leader Says He is Ready to Start Talks with Israel

August 15, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The No. 2 man in the Palestine Liberation Organization says he is ready to start discussions with Israel, which it “naturally” recognizes.

Salah Khalaf, known by his nom de guerre, Abu Iyad, said in an interview published Sunday in Paris that he was ready to recognize Israel on the basis of United Nations Resolution 181, with mutual recognition between. Arab and Jewish states called for by a new Palestinian provisional government that would be “wholly different from the actual PLO’s national covenant.”

Resolution 181, passed by the General Assembly in 1947, partitioned Palestine into two states, Jewish and Arab. It has been the foundation of discord between Arabs and Jews for the last 41 years.

The PLO national covenant does not recognize Israel.

Abu Iyad is next in command to PLO leader Yasir Arafat in the PLO’s guerrilla wing, Al Fatah, since the murder in April of Khalil al-Wazir, known as Abu Jihad.

In an interview with the Paris weekly Le Journal du Dimanche, Abu Iyad said it was probable that the “intifada” — the Palestinian uprising — prompted Jordan’s King Hussein to make his declaration July 31 that he was withdrawing his support from the West Bank.

The intifada, said Abu Iyad, “has widely contributed to demolish all the economic, political structures that King Hussein has tried to set up for quite a certain amount of years.”

He said, in reply to a question, that Hussein had made his declaration out of fear the intifada would spread to Jordan.

Abu Iyad said he did not feel “abandoned” by Hussein but, “to the contrary, I find his declaration very good. It brought him closer to us.”


Asked if the PLO will now “form a government in exile,” he replied, “We do not think of a government in exile, but of a provisional government. That’s why we are going to convene the Palestine National Council at the end of the month.”

Algeria has agreed to host a special session of the 500-member Palestine National Council, regarded by the PLO as its parliament in exile.

PLO leaders are now convening at their headquarters in Tunis to draft a blueprint for a Palestinian state in exile, which Israel has repeatedly said it would oppose.

Questioned to which borders the Palestine council would agree, Abu Iyad replied, “this Palestinian state will refer to the Resolution 181 of the United Nations,” that is, the 1947 vote that partitioned Palestine.

Asked to clarify his stand, because this would mean “to bring Israel back to its 1948 borders,” Abu Iyad responded, “I didn’t say one has to agree upon the borders mentioned in Resolution 181. I said one has to refer, to refer to them, since Resolution 181 is the only one establishing the agreement of the United Nations for the creation of two states. Even the United States had not refused then.”

The U.N. partition plan of Nov. 29, 1947, unleashed the fury of the Arabs.

But reminded that in 1947, “you, the Palestinians, were the ones who did refuse, today, do you have the intention to recognized the state of Israel?”

“Naturally,” replied Abu Iyad, “since the resolution 181 refers expressly to the creation of an Israeli state.”


Asked to confirm that the “PLO’s project in the Middle East would not be to go back to the 1947 propositions,” Abu Iyad answered. “Yes, for it is the only decision taken by the United Nations that gives us the right to create a Palestinian state provided with a provisional government, established in its legitimacy, and whose political program would be wholly different from the actual PLO’s national covenant.”

Abu Iyad said he believes the intifada “can last on and on. I think it is going to last till the independence.”

He said he was optimistic, and believed that there has been change. “I am ready to start that dialogue with Israel. It’s bizarre, for 25 years, the Arabs have refused to talks about peace with Israel, and now, it is Israel who says no.

“I think the Israelis should not fear to accept the creation of a Palestinian state. The problem is not anymore to keep a geographic space to protect its frontiers.

“We all have missiles. And missiles don’t have to be close or far away to be efficient. Peace can resolve all the problems.”

In Jerusalem, sources at the Foreign Ministry estimated Sunday that the PLO would seek to reach maximum international approval for a provisional Palestinian government.

Israel TV on Sunday quoted sources at the Premier’s Office who said that one should take into account an effort by the PLO to bring itself closer to the middle of the political arena.

But these sources doused water on any eventuality of rapprochement by saying, “There is nothing we can do about it, because in any case, we will not hold negotiations with the PLO.”

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