PLO Bid to Build Pressure on Israel. Palestinians push dialogue with Israeli liberals and diaspora Jews
THE Palestine Liberation Organization is trying to increase pressure on Israel to come to the negotiating table. The PLO aims to convince the Israeli public and diaspora Jews that, contrary to the Israeli government's assertions, its intention of establishing a state that will co-exist peacefully with Israel is sincere.
The PLO's efforts to reach Israeli and non-Israeli Jews have taken the form of a series of meetings between PLO officials and Israeli peace activists in Paris, the Hague, London, and Oxford.
The PLO is also widely thought to have sanctioned recent meetings between PLO supporters in the Israeli-occupied territories and leftist Israeli members of the Knesset or even members of Shimon Peres's left-of-center Labor Party.
While the discussions have showed some common ground, they have also shown clear differences on major issues.
The most recent meeting, on Feb. 25, was organized by the Oxford Union Society. It brought together five Palestinians including Arafat confidant Bassam Abu Sharif and Feisal Uweidah, the PLO's representative in Britain, with five Israeli peace activists including Knesset (parliament) members David Zucker and Chaim Oron.
Despite Yasser Arafat's recognition of Israel last December, the Israeli government rejects Palestinian statehood and negotiations with the PLO.
The participants quickly agreed on the creation of an independent Palestinian state existing side by side with Israel as a permanent solution.
They also joined in calling for negotiations between the Israeli government and the PLO ``directly and within the context of an international conference,'' and immediate preparations for such a conference.
THE meeting also revealed the gap between them on:
The intifadah (uprising). Some Israeli peace activists critized the throwing of stones, bricks, and occasional Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers. They said the PLO should influence the protesters to resort to passive resistance and civil disobedience.
``The intifadah is a kind of mixture of civil disobedience and terror,'' said Mr. Oron. This, he said, was detrimental to the efforts of peace activists like himself.
The PLO representatives argued that such behavior constitutes legitimate resistance to occupation and self-defense. Since the intifadah is directed against the Israeli occupation, it would cease if the occupation were to end.
The Palestinian ``right of return.'' An estimated 3.5 million Palestinians, whose parents or who themselves were part of the massive exodus in 1948 when Israel was founded, live outside the country. They claim the right to return to homes they abandoned.
The Israeli peace activists have been pressing the PLO to describe the right of return as a ``dream.'' They say it weakens the argument within Israel that the PLO is sincere in its desire to coexist peacefully with Israel.
The PLO interprets the right of return as a general human right. The rights of Palestinians who fled in 1948 cannot be written off, they contend, especially since Jews who were never born in Israel can emigrate to Israel from anywhere in the world under a Jewish ``Law of Return.''
However, the PLO has attempted to allay Israeli fears of a Palestinian return to Israel proper by stressing that the state which the PLO proposes to establish beside Israel ``is the state of all Palestinians wherever they may be.''
However, the PLO feels that the whole issue of the Palestinian right of return should be left to the negotiating table.
Jerusalem. The city was annexed by Israel in 1967 and declared its eternal capital. The Palestinian Declaration of Independence refers to Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian state.
Settlers. Whether 50,000 Israeli settlers now living in the occupied territories would have to vacate their settlements under a peace agreement has also been skirted around, as have the precise borders of the proposed Palestinian state.