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Shultz Speaks out on PLO Mission, Defends Meeting with Pnc Members

March 31, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Secretary of State George Shultz said Wednesday that the law Congress passed in December closing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s mission to the United Nations was “dumb,” because it resulted in lopsided votes at the United Nations that have “legitimized the PLO in the international community.”

“It’s always good to stand with Israel,” Shultz said, referring to Israel and the United States being the only countries at the United Nations defending the closure. “But, nevertheless, when you get all of our allies and friends voting for the PLO and against the United States — it’s kind of dumb.”

The mission was ordered closed by March 21, but Zehdi Terzi, the PLO representative to the United Nations, has refused to comply. Terzi was served with a summons March 22, giving the PLO 20 days to appear in court to answer a complaint filed by U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani.

Speaking to Israeli reporters two days before he leaves for the Middle East, Shultz said he opposed closing the mission, because the office had been accredited by the United Nations. “We don’t like the fact they’ve accredited the PLO — but they have,”he said.

Shultz, who will be visiting Israel, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in his second trip to the Mideast in less than a month, stressed that his Mideast peace initiative “still holds up very well,” even though Egypt is the only country that has approved it.

He defended the provision for a conference convened by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council because Jordan needs “the legitimacy that comes from an international conference.” He acknowledged, though, that Israel and the United States would prefer not to convene such a conference, and simply go right to direct negotiations.

Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir made clear his strong opposition to such a conference during his recent visit to Washington.

Shultz also said that interim negotiations on autonomy for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are contained in the proposal to meet Israel’s concerns not to move too fast to final negotiations. He noted the Arab countries would prefer just to hold negotiations on the final status of the territories.


He added that Palestinians have to participate in the negotiations. “The idea of a Palestinian state is just not in the cards,” he stressed. “And so we should structure things from the beginning in a way that associates Palestinians with countries.” This was an apparent reference to the concept of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that could gain shared control over the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

On another issue, Shultz emphasized that his meeting last Saturday with two Palestinian Americans who are members of the Palestine National Council did not set a precedent.

He said U.S. officials have talked previously with members of the PNC, the quasi-legislative arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The United States differentiates between the PLO and the PNC, although Israel does not.

In his first detailed public defense of Saturday’s meeting, Shultz said the two PNC members, Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod, “do not advocate terrorism; they support United Nations Resolution 242. They are very comfortable with the idea that Israel is there.”

U.N. Resolution 242 calls for the return of Arabs lands and implicitly recognizes Israel’s right to exist.

The secretary took issue with a policy that would exclude him from talking with U.S. citizens like Said and Abu-Lughod, adding that such a restriction “is just beyond the pale as far as I’m concerned.”

Israel lodged a formal protest to the State Department, criticizing the distinction made between being a PNC member and playing a more active role in the PLO. In 1975, the United States barred its officials from talking with the PLO untile it recognized Israel’s right to exist.

Shultz called the meeting “a good thing,” adding that “it does not in any way change our policy, which I follow not simply because it was set out in 1975, but I think it’s a very important idea that we are not going to talk to and negotiate with the PLO.”

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