PLO overtures to Europe paying off

The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) diplomatic offensive in West Europe is beginning to pay off. This can be seen in: 1. Growing indications that Europe is pressing ahead with its own Mideast peace initiative, despite US efforts to stop it. The initiative centers around revising the key United Nations Resolution 242 to draw the Palestinians into the peace talks.

2. French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing's recognition of the "Palestinian right of self-determination" on March 3 at the end of an official visit to the gulf oil nation of Kuwait. This recognition comes in the wake of PLO leader Yasser Arafat's visits last year to Austria, Turkey, Spain, and Portugal as part of his organization's bid for wider influence.

The united states fears that a West European peace initiative is complicating the ongoing Israeli-Egyptian talks on Palestinian autonomy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"Why should the Palestinians accept a limited form of self-government if they can get an independent state from the Europeans on a silver plate?" asked one official at last week's autonomy negotiations in The Hague.

In talks in Bonn Feb. 26 with Britain's Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington and West German Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher, and in Paris Feb. 29 with French Foreign Minister Jean Francois-Poncet, US Ambassador Sol Linowitz, who is President Carter's special envoy to the Egyptian-Israeli autonomy talks, expressed the US concerns.

The European plan for a Middle East solution includes:

* Upholding the principles of Resolution 242, especially the right of all states in the Middle East (including, by implication, Israel) to an existence within secure and recognized boundaries.

* Recognition of the Palestinian right of self-determination.

* A call for an international Middle East peace conference based on the revised UN Security Council resolution.

European spokesmen believe that such a resolution will pave the way to a comprehensive peace settlement and that acceptance of this proposed resolution by the PLO would imply indirect Palestinian recognition of the state of Israel.

The head of the PLO's political department, Farouk Kaddoumi, meanwhile, recently visited both Paris and Brussels. Behind the scenes, Spain's Prime Minister Mario Suarez appears to be playing a key role. West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt closely coordinates his Middle East policy with Mr. Suarez. The Spanish Prime Minister also is said to have impressed President Carter with his report of a recent visit to several Arab states.

Israeli officials now fear that recent developments in both Europe and the United States might cause a new confrontation between the US and Israel. Some political circles in Jerusalem claim that Ambassador Linowitz's attempts to pressure Europe are merely "show." They claim that Lord Carrington's proposal is actually a US trial ballon.

These circles argue that should the European plan be accepted by the Security Council, the Carter administration could acquiesce by stating that it did not want to stray away from its European allies.

Moreover, Israelis believe that this would ease President Carter's difficulties in applying pressure on Israel during an election year. They regarded the US vote in favor of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement policies March 1 as the handwriting on the wall.

In addition, Israeli officials point out that during the Hague talks "our problems were with the United States, not with Egypt." Israeli officials claim that Ambassador Linowitz tried to force the establishment of a committee to discuss Israel's security needs and hinted at including east Jerusalem in the negotiations.

"This could have brought the talks to a crisis," one Israeli official said. He added, "We told Linowitz that, should he maintain this course, we would leave immediately."

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