Why Israel will not talk to the PLO
Ambassador Andrew Young's resignation has long been a closed chapter. But the questions which were raised still linger: What is wrong in talking to the Palestine Liberation Organization? Doesn't the PLO represent the Palestinians? How can there be peace in the Middle East without the PLO? The answers to those questions depend on understanding the PLO and its aims.
The PLO is a loosely grouped body of more than a dozen different factions, strongly supported by the Soviet Union. Some of these were created and are financed by various Arab countries, sometimes combining their efforts and sometimes fighting each other. It took its present form in 1964 with the adoption of the Palestinian National Covenant.
Yet, even before that date, the "Fedayeen," as they were known then, killed hundreds of Jewish civilians. The PLO is thus by no means a result of the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. This must be borne in mind when it is suggested that "all the PLO wants is the West Bank and Gaza." From 1948 to 1967 the West Bank and Gaza were under Arab control. That did not prevent the killing.
Two major factors distinguish the PLO from all other "freedom movements": its particular brand of terrorism and its political aims. The PLO has yet, after all these years, to attack a military target. Schools, civilian aircraft, marketplaces, children's playgrounds -- but never an army unit or a military facility.
Another unique PLO feature: in the last ten years the PLO, while murdering 640 Jews and wounding 3,300, has also murdered 350 Arabs and wounded 2,000 in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. This is a grim record for a "national liberation movement."
Yet what is much more ominous and fundemantal is the political aim of the PLO , which is unique in that it totally denies the right of its adversary (i.e. Israel) to exist in anym form, behind anym boundaries, on anym territory. A look at some of the articles of its covenant will make this clear. First, to whom does Palestine belong?
Art. 1: "Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab People and an integral part of the Great Arab Homeland. . . "
Art. 2: "Palestine with its boundaries that existed at the time of the British Mandate is an integral regional unit."
Art. 3: ". . . when the liberation of its homeland is completed [the Palestinians] will exercise self-determination solely according to [their] own will and choice."
Thus Palestine -- the whole of it -- belongs only to the Palestinian Arabs and they alone have the right to determine its future. What is the aim of the PLO? As Art. 15 states, it is ". . . a national duty. . . to purge the Zionist presence from Palestine." This is but one of the many clear calls in the covenant for liquidation of Israel.
How will this proposed liquidation be achieved? Art. 9 states that "armed struggle is the only way. . . " and Art. 21 reads: "The [Palestinians]. . . reject every solution that is a substitute for a complete liberation of Palestine. . . "
Could Israel have any hope whatsoever? Consider Art. 19: "The partitioning of Palestine in 1947 and the establishing of Israel is fundamentally null and void. . . " Or Art. 20: "The claim of a historical or spiritual tie between Jews and Palestine does not tally with historical realities. . . Judaism. . . is not a nationality. . . " No right to a state, no justification for a state.
Could the Jews at least remain as a "tolerated minority" in the "secular democratic Arab state" to be created after the destruction of Israel? According to Art. 6, "Jews who were living permanently in Palestine until the beginning of the Zionist invasion will be considered Palestinians" (1968 version).
The "Zionist invasion" is not dated from 1967 nor even from the creation of Israel in 1948: ". . . the aggression against the Arab nation and its land began with the Zionist invasion of Palestine in 1917" (Resolutions of the 1968 PLO Congress). About 95 percent of the Jews living today in Israel would therefore have to leave.
However, is all this not merely "battle rhetoric"? Isn't the PLO now ready for a "mini- state" in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip?
That the PLO covenant is not mere rhetoric is proved daily by the PLO actions. The covenant itself has been reapproved, expanded, sometimes radicalized (but never moderated) in every Palestine Congress since 1964, the most recent in August of 1979. As for the "mini-state," one quote will suffice: "Our people will continue to fuel the torch of the revolution with rivers of blood until the whole of the occupied homeland is liberated. . . not just a part of it" (Yasser Arafat, March 12, 1979).
Is there any possibility of reaching a settlement without the PLO? The answer lies in understanding the distinction between the Palestinians and the PLO. This distinction has been blurred recently. It should not be, for the only responsible solution to the Palestinian problem lies in maintaining this vital distinction.
While there can be no total peace in the Middle East unless the Palestinian question, among other important questions, is solved, there will be no peace whatsoever if the PLO has its way. The influence today of this selfappointed body is akin to the influence and the power of a hijacker over a plane. He is no pilot. He is unable to fly, but he has a gun. He can, for a time, lead the plane away from its given path. He can endanger the lives of the passengers.
What is the solution? Should one negotiate or is it our duty not to negotiate with those who have hijacked the Palestinian cause nor give them the recognition which they seek by their crime?
The United States is committed not to negotiate the Palestinian issue with the PLO unless it recognizes Israel's right to exist. This commitment, forming part of the Camp David agreements, is not a "promise made to cater to Israel's whim" but an American interest anchored in the realization that the PLO, in its present policies and avowed aims, is a danger to the whole Middle East and a front for the Soviet penetration of the area.
What is more, as Israel takes even higher security risks, the US will not do anything which will sabotage the peace process, a peace which in terms of Israeli security, replaces the territories given up. To invite the PLO to subvert the peace is to make Israel -- the US's strongest ally in the Middle East -- endanger its own existence. It is to silence any alternative voice to the PLO among the Palestinians themselves; it is to encourage a further isolation of President Sadat, the only Arab leader who dared take the peace road.
How, then, should we proceed?
First, we have to conclude the Palestinian autonomy negotiations now being held. This transitional positive first step will enable the Palestinians living in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to enjoy, for the first time in their history, the right to govern their own lives, a right which they were never given, be it under the Ottomans, the British, the Jordanians, or the Israels.
Unlike the PLO solution of "all or nothing" (ending with nothing), autonomy holds a much better promise for the Palestinians. Israel is committed to help solve the Palestinian question. It seeks the Palestinians' participation in the negotiations. But their absence will not prevent Israel and Egypt from achieving a just and equitable solution to their plight, a solution then presented to their free vote -- not to a PLO veto. This solution will be consistent with the rights and security of Israel and all other interested countries in the area. We have, therefore, to encourage the Palestinian moderates and not to silence them by negotiating with those who refuse any moderation.
Thus, Israel will not speak to any organization that aims at its destruction and adopts a policy or terror against innocent civilians -- speak either directly or through intermediaries (whatever their color -- which has nothing to do with it), nor would anyone who seeks the good of Israel or the Palestinians. We have gone a long way in the last two years. We have gone a long way in the last two years. We have a long way still to go -- but with good sense we shall reach peace.