PLO hard liners deny reaching accord with Jordan
Tunis, Tunisia — Key hard-line Palestine Liberation Organization leaders have denied that the PLO has reached an agreement with Jordan on who should represent Palestinians in a joint peace delegation. The denials come on the heels of a State Department announcement in Washington that the United States is considering a list of Palestinian names for such a delegation.
Farouk Kaddoumi, the PLO's foreign minister, and Salah Khalaf, a member of the Al-Fatah Central Committee, both say that a compromise formula favored by the Jordanians was unacceptable to the PLO.
The only acceptable members to a joint delegation, the two men say, were members of the PLO executive committee, which is the organization's board of directors. However, both the US and Israel refuse to meet with PLO members unless the organization recognizes Israel's right to exist.
Both Mr. Kaddoumi and Mr. Khalaf say they realize there is little likelihood of the Americans talking to the PLO. Both insisted the organization will have the option of renouncing diplomatic efforts and resorting to guerrilla attacks against Israel.
``Our backs are to the wall, we have lost everything. What can we do? We can continue the armed struggle,'' says Kaddoumi.
Kaddoumi's and Khalaf's position differs from that of PLO chairman Yasser Arafat who, diplomatic sources say, is eager to find a compromise that would allow the PLO to enter the peace process.
The strong opposition both men expressed to allowing any non-PLO members to meet with the Americans, and even to the agreement signed between Jordan's King Hussein and Mr. Arafat Feb. 11, indicates that the chairman has a tentative hold on his organization.
``Arafat now is worried about survival, not about entering peace negotiations,'' says one senior PLO official.
A senior Jordanian official told the Monitor Saturday that the PLO had agreed that prominent members of the Palestine National Council (PNC) -- regarded as the Palestinians' highest legislative body -- could join with Jordanians to meet with a US envoy.
The official said that names had been submitted to US envoy Richard Murphy and it was expected that Secretary of State George Shultz would bring the US response with him when he comes to the region later this week. The official stressed that PNC members would be named only to meet with the Americans. Jordan and the PLO would make it clear during that meeting, he said, that the only hope for advancing the peace process would be for the US and Israel to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians.
State Department spokesman Edward Djerejian confirmed Tuesday that a list of non-PLO Palestinians was under consideration in Washington. ``The question of the formation of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, its composition, and a possible meeting with the PNC members in this forum are all questions that are currently being addressed,'' Mr. Djerejian told reporters.
But Khalaf says that no agreement has been reached between Jordan and the PLO on delegation members. ``This is groundless,'' says Khalaf, a long-time ally but frequent critic of Arafat. Khalaf and Kaddoumi work in offices miles apart in this verdant north African capital. The PLO has been headquartered in Tunis, which members refer to as their exile, since they were evacuated from Beirut at Israel's insistence in the fall of 1982.
Diplomats in Tunis say that it is unlikely that Khalaf or Kaddoumi reflect Arafat's intentions. But the two men and their supporters are capable of blocking the chairman's efforts to compromise on the delegation's makeup.
Arafat, one diplomat notes, ``has lost a lot of credibility by signing the Feb. 11 accord with King Hussein and getting nothing from the Americans in return. He's a very worried man.''
Khalaf says that the PLO had rejected US envoy Murphy's offer to meet with a non-PLO delegation and had told the Jordanians that only members of the PLO executive committee would be acceptable Palestinian representatives on any joint team.
Both Khalaf and Kaddoumi expressed fear that the PLO was being ``tricked'' into an untenable position by the Americans and the Jordanians.
The PLO and Jordan have been trying to put together a joint team since Hussein and Arafat signed the February accord calling for the two parties to jointly negotiate a regional peace settlement.
Khalaf opposes the February agreement, which he dismisses as containing ``nothing serious.''
``Regarding the current endeavour made by the Jordanians and the Egyptians,'' says Khalaf, ``we believe in its appearance it is for peace, but in reality it is surrender to be imposed.'' He says that a fundamental difference remains in the Jordanian and PLO positions that makes joint action impossible.
``Jordan has accepted UN Security Council resolution 242 bluntly and frankly,'' the greying revolutionary says. ``The PLO is against 242.'' Resolution 242 was adopted after the 1967 Arab-Israeli war. It enshrined the concept of Israel exchanging territory it captured during the war for secure borders, and formed the basis of the Camp David peace treaty signed by Israel and Egypt in 1979. King Hussein has said it must also form the basis of future negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
But the resolution, Khalaf says, ``relates to the relations between the Arabs and Israel,'' not the Palestinians. It refers only to the refugee problem and makes no mention of the Palestinian people or their right to self-determination.
Khalaf says that the Feb. 11 agreement does call for self-determination, a concept not recognized either by the US or Israel. The accord says that the Palestinians will negotiate for a state on the West Bank and in Gaza to be confederated with Jordan.
Khalaf says no Palestinian would accept less than confederated statehood. ``We do not under any circumstance accept a West Bank and Gaza ruled by the Hashemite kingdom of Jordan or any Arab state,'' he says.