Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Carter, says the time has come for the United States to talk with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
Mr. Brzezinski says that he is not suggesting that the US enter formal negotiations with the PLO or that it offer any kind of official recognition to that organization. But he argues that a "dialogue" with the Palestinian organization might encourage it to moderate its stance toward Israel and to engage in constructive negotiations over the future of the Israeli-occupied West Bank of the Jordan River.
Egypt's President Anwar Sadat proposed much the same thing during his talks here Aug. 5 and 6 with President Reagan.
"The PLO was much more active in terrorism . . . some years ago," said Brzezinski at a breakfast meeting with reporters. "We have to take account of changing attitudes in the Arab world . . . the view that Israel must be accepted."
"When I say talk with the PLO, I don't say turn our backs on Israel," he added.
Earlier, Rep. John Conyers (D) of Michigan declared that he favors President Sadat's proposal and that he expects the 18-member Congressional Black Caucus to support that position. Support from several black leaders and from among members of the Black Caucus for the idea of a dialogue with the PLO goes back several years. An upsurge of support for the idea occurred in 1979 following the resignation of Andrew Young as the US ambassador to the United Nations. Mr. Young resigned after holding an apparently anauthorized meeting with Zehdi Labib Terzi, the PLO's UN observer.
Congressman Conyers maintains that Palestinian representation, whether by the PLO or by other Palestinian leaders, is "indispensable" to Middle East peace.
"All we're trying to do is get Palestinian representation to the table," he said.
Brzezinski, now a senior adviser at Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that a US-Israeli agreement of 1975, which bans American negotiations with the PLO, should not bar all contact with it. The agreement, concluded by then Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger, was offered to Israel as part of the effort to get the Israelis to enter into a Sinai disengagement agreement with Egypt.
"To elevate a personal pledge by a secretary of state into sacrosanct and eternally binding document is to reduce one's flexibility," says Brzezinski.
From time to time over the years, the US has had contact with PLO officials over practical matters. Such contacts with the PLO were made in one instance to secure the evacuation of Americans from Beirut.