Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, accusing the Palestine Liberation Organization of "the worst atrocities we've ever seen since World War II," said Tuesday his government shares the U.S. desire for peace in the Middle East but must cope with dangerous radicalism.
Arens, who was meeting Tuesday with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on "CBS This Morning" that the PLO is trying to impose itself in the area and is scaring King Hussein of Jordan away from the peace table.But he said on NBC's "Today" show that a suggestion by Secretary of State James A. Baker III that Israel and the PLO consider reciprocal gestures to reduce tensions on the West Bank and in Gaza "is something that needs to be investigated."
Arens said Israel was in the midst of selecting areas in the occupied territories where troops could be reduced. "I think we will see, and I can report back to you, as to whether the results are positive or not." he said.
On Monday, Arens told President Bush and Baker that U.S. talks with the PLO would not contribute to peacemaking efforts in the Mideast.
He said on CBS that the PLO was an umbrella organization for 10 to 12 different terrorist groups. "They've carried out the worst atrocities we've ever seen since World War II," Arens said. "They are trying to impose themselves on the area. They are scaring Hussein away from the peace table. They tried to overthrow his regime in September 1970. They're carrying out terrorist activities."
Arens added, "This kind of violence will not be conducive to the peace process at all."
But the Bush administration intends to push ahead in dealing with the PLO, and is making plans for a sixth session with a PLO representative next week in Tunisia.
The talks were opened in December over Israel's objections. Since then Palestinian guerrillas have clashed several times with Israeli soldiers in southern Lebanon. While criticizing the PLO, Baker has concluded the attacks do not constitute terrorism.
Arens said he found himself in basic agreement with Bush and Baker that there is an urgent need for peace in the Middle East.