The U.S. government had frequent secret contacts with the Palestine Liberation Organization, including a carefully choreographed series of exchanges that led to direct U.S.-PLO talks, according to a forthcoming book.
The book, "Arafat, In the Eyes of the Beholder," by Janet and John Wallach, also says that a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon, who had frequent contacts with PLO officials in Lebanon, believes that a "friendly power" - presumably Israel - objected strenuously to those meetings.John Gunther Dean, according to the book, believes the the Phalangist militia that tried to assassinate him in Beirut in the summer of 1980 was supplied by Israel with the weapons that were used in the attempt.
The most elaborate series of U.S.-PLO diplomatic contacts, at a time when the United States was forbidden by law to have such a dialogue, came in 1988, in the closing days of the Reagan administration.
The book describes a process that began in the summer of 1988 when Swedish Foreign Minister Sven Andersson approached Secretary of State George Shultz with a proposal that Sweden be used as an intermediary to set up a direct series of meetings between the U.S. government and the PLO.
The U.S. government was insisting that the PLO renounce terrorism and agree to recognize Israel's right to exist as conditions for U.S.-PLO talks. But the book said that Shultz suggested that if the PLO wanted to attach conditions of its own, that would be the PLO's prerogative.
The contacts quickened after the November 1988 elections but Shultz, according to the book, did not consult either President-elect Bush nor his designated secretary of state, James Baker, about his negotiations with the PLO.
The authors write that Shultz called in the Swedish ambassador on Dec. 3, 1988, with a secret letter to Andersson in Stockholm, giving Yasser Arafat the exact formulation to use in meeting the U.S. conditions about renouncing terrorism and recongizing Israel's right to exist.
The secret letter, which Shultz said Andersson could share "with your visitor from Tunis," (Arafat, who was then due to arrive in Stockholm) was hand-carried to Sweden to prevent leaks.
The Shultz letter said that the United States would have no objection if Arafat added further declarations of his own, including an intention to have an independent Palestinian state.
The PLO responded through the Swedish Foreign Ministry that it would follow the Shultz formulation but would make some additions. While renouncing terrorism, the PLO would also denounce "state terrorism," a reference to Israeli raids on PLO positions in southern Lebanon.
The PLO also persuaded Shultz to drop language that would call for an end "to all forms of violence once the negotiations began," since the PLO convinced Shultz that it was incapable of stopping the intifada, or uprising in the Israeli-occupied territories.
The book reports that Shultz even told the PLO of his planned answers at a news conference, announcing the start of the dialogue with the PLO.
The plan, which was to plant some questions with friendly reporters, did not work out, according to the book.
The U.S.-PLO dialogue, as outlined in the secret negotiations, began after several misfires, including a speech by Arafat in Geneva in which he failed to use the required language. In a news conference, Arafat spoke the necessary words and the the U.S.-PLO dialogue was opened.
The talks were broken off this year after an attack on an Israeli beach by a group headed by a member of the PLO Central Committee.