The Bush administration will likely have a more realistic relationship with the PLO than did the Reagan administration, a Palestinian journalist said last week during a visit to BYU.
Bishara Bahbah, a Brigham Young University graduate who is now editor-in-chief of The Return, a Palestinian West Bank newspaper, spoke Friday. Secretary of State George Shultz's recent decision to deny PLO leader Yasser Arafat a visa to enter the U.S. and address the United Nations sends a bad signal to the people of Palestine, Bahbah said."The Palestinian people see (denying the visa) as another example of the United States' blind support for Israel and Secretary of State George Shultz's hatred for the Arab people, especially the people of Palestine," he said. "My assessment is that the Bush administration will act different."The expectation is that the Bush administration will be much more realistic about its relationship with the PLO."
Bahbah attended a recent meeting of the Palestine National Council in Algiers at which the group declared Palestine's independence. He said Arafat and the Palestine Liberation Organization will not be involved in terrorist activities.
"The PLO mean what they say, and the PLO is not going to do anymore than it did (when it made its declaration). The PLO is in a position of strength and not weakness," Bahbah said. "The PLO did in points of time use acts of terrorism but they stopped it a long time ago. One should not confuse acts of terrorism with the right to defend yourself. We may have been called terrorists, but people keep forgetting that we're a very democratic society. We're going to have true Democracy as we see it."
The time for the U.S. to recognize that is now, he said. American officials use criticism of the PLO as an excuse to avoid the real issue, which is that the Israelis must accept the existence of a Palestinian state before the conflict can be resolved.
"At the present time we have what President Reagan would call a window of opportunity. The Palestinians are not going to be extending their hand to the Israelis forever," he said.