Arafat Says PLO Charter, Which Seeks Israel’s Destruction, Is Outdated
PARIS (AP) _ Yasser Arafat said Tuesday the PLO charter, which calls for the destruction of Israel, is outdated and he favors a Middle East peace settlement based on the existence of both Israel and a Palestinian state.
The PLO chairman was asked about the charter provision during a television interview on the first day of an official visit to France, and he replied:
″I was elected on a political program which is founded on the basis of two states,″ Israel and Palestine. ″As for the charter, there is an expression in French, it is ’caduc.‴ Caduc means outdated, or void.
Initial reaction from Israel and from a major U.S. Jewish organization was that Arafat’s statement was angled at public relations and changed nothing.
President Francois Mitterrand took the occasion of a 90-minute meeting with Arafat at the beginning of his two-day visit to express concern that the charter still contains a provision for Israel’s destruction.
Pierre Mauroy, leader of the governing Socialist Party, met with Arafat later and said he too brought up the charter.
He said the PLO chief responded: ″This text has existed for many years and is now outdated. The leadership of the PLO was elected with a program that includes recognition of Israel and the abandonment of terrorism.″
Israel frequently cites the charter provision as reason it will not deal with the Palestine Liberation Organization, which it considers a terrorist organization. Last December, the PLO chief publicly renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist.
Arafat, smiling and in uniform, arrived in Paris on Tuesday to an official greeting just below that for a chief of state: red carpets at the airport but no Palestinian flags; high-level talks but no greeting on the tarmac by the head or government or state.
France’s Jewish community largely disapproved of the visit. In the Jewish- dominated Paris garment district, shopkeepers and manufacturers set off their burglar alarms simultaneously for five minutes to show displeasure.
Israeli activists protested outside the French consulate in Jerusalem and the embassy in Tel Aviv.
Tuesday is Israel’s national day of mourning for the 6 million Jewish victims of the Nazis.
Hubert Vedrine, spokesman for Mitterrand, read a statement implying the president urged Arafat to drop the charter article about the destruction of Israel.
″During the meeting, Mr. Francois Mitterrand noted that the continuation in force of the charter of the PLO, adopted in 1964, was contrary to important points of the political program adopted by the Palestine National Council in Algiers on Nov. 15, 1988, and he believed things should be made clear,″ the statement said.
Acting as the PLO legislature, the council declared an independent Palestinian state at the Algiers meeting and implicitly recognized Israel by accepting pertinent U.N. resolutions. In December, Arafat explicitly renounced terrorism and recognized Israel’s right to exist.
The statement read by the presidential spokesman said Arafat was received in his position as head of the PLO Executive Committee and in the context of the PLO’s adoption of U.N. resolutions ″concerning the recognition of the State of Israel and its rights and to the renunciation by the PLO of any form of terrorism.″
Avi Pazner, spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, commented in Jerusalem, ″We do not have to take with seriousness every utterance from the mouth of Arafat. He has a rich record of making false declarations for public relations.″
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Allon Liel said, ″As far as Israel is concerned, there still has not been a specific decision by the Palestine National Council to void the charter. It still exists.″
In New York, chairman Seymour D. Reich of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations also remarked that only the Palestine National Council can change the PLO charter - by a two-thirds vote at a special meeting - and refused to do so in Algiers.
Reich called Arafat’s statement ″meaningless″ and said it was clearly meant ″to give President Mitterrand some comfort for embarrassing himself and France by receiving with honor the world’s ranking terrorist.″