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Israel and the Palestinians

To the Editors:

I think your readers may be interested in the following response to the statement issued on June 7 by PLO spokesperson Bassam Abu Sherif.

Drora Kass

Director, US Office,

International Center

for Peace in the Middle East

We have read with great interest the statement by Bassam Abu Sherif, PLO spokesperson and adviser to Yasir Arafat, distributed at the recent Arab Summit meeting in Algiers. We are mindful that previous peaceful statements by PLO officials have later been disavowed. We strongly hope this statement will receive official PLO endorsement, as in substance and tone it constitutes the clearest expression thus far, by any Palestinian official, of a readiness to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. It is a signal contribution toward answering the oft asked questions of “Who is there to talk to?” and “What is there to talk about?”, which if amplified and substantiated by further Palestinian declarations, could serve as a significant step toward political dialogue so vital to the two peoples.

We share the belief in the need for a political settlement between Israel and the Palestinian people. We furthermore welcome Abu Sherif’s affirmation that:

—The ultimate goal of the Palestinians is lasting peace and security for the Palestinian people and for Israel;

—The conflict can only be solved through direct talks between the parties, under international auspices, with each party choosing its own representatives;

—The Palestinians would welcome measures that would promote the security of all states in the region, and that the Israelis and the Palestinians have the right to expect not only non-belligerence, but political and economic cooperation, without which no state can be truly secure.

In order to promote a positive climate for negotiations, it is essential that the PLO leadership declare that:

  1. The document reflects official PLO policy;

  2. The PLO accepts unconditionally UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, with the understanding that the Palestinian people have the right to self-determination.

Bassam Abu Sherif has gone a long way toward clarity and candor. An official endorsement and elaboration of his statement by the PLO is critical in helping to transform the political landscape in the Middle East.

Professor Kenneth J. Arrow, Palo Alto, CA; Gerald B. Bubis, Los Angeles, CA; Hon. Marvin E. Frankel, New York, NY; Professor Nathan P. Glazer, Cambridge, MA; Rita E. Hauser, New York, NY; Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg, Hanover, NH; Irving Howe, New York, NY; Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, New York, NY; Philip M. Klutznick, Chicago, IL; Professor Seymour Martin Lipset, Palo Alto, CA; Theodore R. Mann, Philadelphia, PA; Letty Cottin Pogrebin, New York, NY; Menachem Z. Rosensaft, New York, NY; Sanford Solender, Somers, NY; Daniel Thursz, Washington, DC

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