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Mr. MACK. Mr. President, on March 19 the State Department submitted the first report required by Congress under the PLO Commitments Compliance Act, introduced last year by myself and the Senator from Connecticut [Mr. Lieberman]. In requiring a report, the intent of Congress was to hold the Palestine Liberation Organization accountable for its commitments to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel's right to exist. The State Department report, unfortunately, glosses over much of the PLO's record since December 1988 in order to reach what I fear was a foregone conclusion: that the PLO has adhered to its commitments.

A number of analysts who have examined the State Department report disagree with its conclusion; they say the report, if not a whitewash, is close to it. The New Republic in its lead editorial on April 16, 1990, writes, `The central, irrefutable, and intrinsically troubling fact is that since [Yasir] Arafat renounced terrorism * * * PLO factions have regularly been launching attacks against Israel.'

Barry Rubin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in the Los Angeles Times, `The State Department report is full of misleading assertions and unfounded conclusions. * * * [It is] more likely to undermine than fortify U.S. policy.' Rubin points out that the State Department's claim that it `has no evidence' that the many PLO attacks against Israel were `authorized or approved by the PLO executive committee' is disingenuous because the `PLO as a body has never carried out terrorist acts; these have always been committed by the constituent groups' military organizations.'

Steve Emerson, in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, observes that even Egypt, which is generally pro-PLO, roundly condemned the PLO for justifying the murder of nine Israeli tourists near Cairo this February. PLO statements celebrating this and other terrorist acts were completely ignored in the State Department report. According to Emerson, the State Department rejects evidence from the Israeli Government based on interrogations of captured terrorists, refuses Israel's offer to interview them, then says it has `no evidence' that the targets of the attacks were civilians.

Emerson also charges that the State Department at first refused to call the incident in which a Palestinian steered an Israeli bus over a cliff--killing 15 Israelis and 1 American--terrorism until it had ruled out PLO responsibility.

By opening official talks with the PLO, an organization formally dedicated to the destruction of Israel and responsible for the murder of a number of American diplomats, the United States accepted a profound responsibility. That responsibility is to demand from the PLO that it transform itself and break fundamentally from its terrorist past.

The distortions and omissions of the State Department report indicate that the United States is unwilling to condemn, or even unequivocally criticize clear failures by the PLO to adhere to its commitments. It is hard to see how the U.S.-PLO dialog can be justified if these conditions continue.

I ask that a report by Anti Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, `PLO Terrorism 1989-1990: Violating the Terms of the U.S.-PLO Dialogue,' and three opinion pieces from The New Republic, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal be included at this point in the Record.

The material follows:


Terrorism Lite

Three times a year, by congressional mandate, the Bush administration must issue the Palestine Liberation Organization a report card, a written assessment of how closely it has abided by Yasir Arafat's forswearing of terrorism in December 1988. The first of these came in mid-March, and the PLO passed with flying colors. The State Department report asserts at the outset `that the PLO has adhered to its commitment . . . to renounce terrorism.' Most who follow the Middle East will wonder about the honesty of such an unnuanced verdict, and even the uninitiated observer would have only to read the rest of the report to become similarly skeptical. Yes, it goes on to concede, at least nine of the thirty attacks launched against Israel by Palestinians since the PLO renounced terrorism have `involved constituent groups of the PLO.' But this isn't to say, you understand, that the PLO hasn't kept its word.

The convolutions through which State Department logicians reached this conclusion are instructive. In most of these nine `border and rocket attacks,' the report noted, `the intended target of the attack was unclear,' and therefore can't be presumed to include civilians; thus it is impossible to say on which side of the PLO's fine line between `armed struggle' and `terrorism' these attacks fall. True, three PLO attacks were undeniably directed at civilians, such as a rocket attack on a border town in which an Israeli child was wounded (or `lightly wounded,' as the report put it). But `we have no evidence . . . that the actions were authorized or approved by the PLO Executive Committee or by Arafat personally.' Well, no, we don't. Even the new, upstanding Yasir Arafat hasn't yet opened the PLO's executive deliberations to C-APAN. By this absurd standard of proof, it would be hard to prove that the PLO was ever involved in terrorism in a big way.

Now, it is true that the PLO isn't IBM, and that this chairman can't control the behavior of everyone who carries his logo. Though the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--both of which have plainly persisted in terrorism--occupy seats on the PLO's executive board, they are hardly Arafat's subordinates. (And still less is Arafat able to yank the leash of many fundamentalist militant Palestinians within the occupied territories, whose violence--which includes, by the way, the annual murder of many Palestinians suspected of collaboration--may in some sense be directed as pointedly at Arafat as at Israel). But bear in mind that various Palestinian terrorists once thought to be rogue groups--remember Black September?-turned out to be part of Fatah, Arafat's own PLO faction. Moreover, the U.S. dialogue that was officially sanctioned at the end of 1988 was not framed as being with Fatah alone, but with the PLO.

Besides, to get bogged down in a debate over what Arafat can and can't control, what he did and didn't approve, is to miss much of the point. The central, irrefutable, and intrinsically troubling fact is that since Arafat renounced terrorism, though Fatah itself has scaled down its direct involvement in terrorism, and perhaps ended it (Israel not implausibly contends otherwise), PLO factions have regularly been launching attacks against Israel. That means one of two things: either Arafat isn't trying to keep the PLO away from terrorism, or he isn't capable of doing so. Either way, one is forced to ponder the value of doing business with this man.

Of course, these two hypotheses aren't mutually exclusive, and both, as a matter of fact, have some truth. Still, there is value in distinguishing between them; it helps isolate what is most wrong-headed about the administration's bowdlerizing of the PLO's recent record.

The apparent aim is to keep the peace process alive. The decision in late 1988 to open communications with the PLO was premised on its continued renunciation of terrorism, and Secretary of State James Baker's fear seems to be that casting much doubt on Arafat's fidelity to this oath might lead Congress to step in and end the dialogue. So Baker chooses, in the name of the greater good, to see no evil.

This is dishonesty of the worst kind: the unproductive kind. Consider again our two hypotheses. To the extent that Palestinian terrorism continues because of Arafat's sheer impotence, things look bleak for the Middle East's immediate future in any event. For the Palestinian problem ever to reach peaceful resolution, Palestinians must have enough political coherence to entrust one person, or one organization, or at least one reasonably unified coalition, with their voice. Obviously, if Arafat and the PLO don't fit that bill, no one else now does. To be sure, if the peace process acquires momentum, and Arafat comes closer to the prize of real Palestinian statehood, his power within the PLO may in some measure grow. And certainly, in that regard, the lack of recent progress is far from being all Arafat's fault; the Israeli government hasn't been showering the Palestinian people with auspicious overtures. But the larger point remains: to the extent that the State Department is right--that Arafat lacks the power to sharply curtail PLO terrorism--things look unpromising regardless of what the State Department does or doesn't say.

To the extent, on the other hand, that Arafat is able but unwilling to stifle terrorism, then things may look better--but only if his attitude changes. It is in this light that the danger of the administration's sophistry is most glaring. Obviously, if Arafat doesn't get his hand slapped when a few PLO missiles find their way into an Israeli town, missiles are likely to keep flying. And once they stop `lightly wounding' and start killing, lasting peace will be more remote than ever.

Actually, the State Department says it has slapped Arafat's hand. Shortly after insisting that he can't be blamed for the PLO's behavior, the report states: `We have made it clear to the PLO that these activities raise serious questions about the PLO's commitment to renounce terrorism. We are disappointed that the PLO has not found a more authoritative way to distance or disassociate itself from activities undertaken by constituent groups acting independently. . . .' Disappointed? At the first official meeting between the United States and the PLO, in December 1988, the United States warned that the new dialogue would be ended if terrorism `by the PLO or any of its factions' continued, and it stressed that the PLO would be expected to condemn publicly all Palestinian terrorism. Now, fifteen months later, PLO factions have persisted in terrorism, and Arafat and his colleagues have done their best to avoid clearly condemning it. (Last summer, after fourteen passengers on an Israeli bus were killed by a Palestinian terrorist, Bassam Abu Sharif, a close adviser of Arafat's, said, `This is not terror. Shamir and his government are the terrorists.') And now, the United States declares itself to be disappointed with the PLO's performance? How about an expression of, say, outrage? Or perhaps even words to this effect, stated publicly: `If terrorist attacks by the PLO continue at their present rate over the next year, we will have to reassess the value of sustaining a dialogue with the PLO.'

The administration's aversion to issuing a warning even this fuzzy seems to lie in its fear that the bluff will be called: if Arafat can't or won't stifle terrorism, then the United States will sooner or later have to make good on its threat to stop talking to him, thus throwing a wrench into the works. But again, if Arafat is unable, even under pressure, even after the application of whatever political lubricant he possesses, to make the machine run, then the works are pretty thoroughly messed up to begin with. One more wrench is unlikely to hurt appreciably, and it could end up helping.


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From the Los Angeles Times, Mar. 22, 1990


How Low Will We Stoop for Arafat?


The State Department's new report on the PLO and terrorism may be the most intellectually devious government document since the Vietnam War era. Equally regrettable, this paper is more likely to undermine than to fortify U.S. policy.

Obviously, the Bush Administration chose to trim the facts to suit its thesis that the Palestine Liberation Organization has no involvement with terrorism. The serious miscalculation on which this decision is based--incarnated in the congressionally mandated report released on Monday--may come back to haunt Secretary of State James A. Baker III.

The United States had long demanded that the PLO stop using terrorism before we would negotiate with it. Yasser Arafat made such a promise in December, 1988, and a U.S.-PLO dialogue began. Thereafter, the government stance has been that it must, at least publicly, deny that the PLO is responsible for terrorism--in effect, becoming an apologist for Arafat--or it would have to end the dialogue and abandon the hopeful Israel-Palestinian peace process.

This is a foolish premise. It would have been untenable for a U.S. government to whitewash Soviet human-rights violations or other misdeeds as a condition for bilateral negotiations. Publicly criticizing such acts is basic diplomatic leverage.

The State Department is now in the situation of highlighting criticisms of Israel and rejecting any censure of the PLO. This refusal to be honest about PLO terrorism has seriously undermined Israeli confidence in the United States and makes it harder for Israel to make the concessions required in the peace process.

The U.S. stance also makes the PLO believe that it can get away with continued cross-border attacks on Israel. If the United States does not acknowledge the depredations of the PLO now, what would it do if a Palestinian state broke treaty commitments?

The State Department's report is full of misleading assertions and unfounded conclusions. To name just a few:

The report stresses the absence of evidence that the PLO leadership or Arafat has officially approved any terrorist operations since December, 1988. In fact, the PLO as a body has never carried out terrorist acts; these have always been committed by the constituent groups' military organizations.

The report suggests that three PLO member groups carrying out attacks are marginal, having little to do with the PLO command. In fact, they are the equal of Arafat's group, Fatah. The report does not mention that the leader of the PLO delegation in the dialogue is the No. 2 man in one of those groups.

Although Fatah has greatly reduced its terrorism, the Bush Administration refused to examine Israeli evidence of specific attacks involving Fatah cadres. The report does not even acknowledge the existence of these claims.

Particularly dangerous is the report's refusal to define attempted attacks across the Lebanon-Israel border as terrorist. The argument is that it is not clear what the targets were because Israel killed or captured the terrorists en route. The Administration willfully refused to examine captured evidence of intended targets or even public statements by the PLO member groups. Two Third World diplomats cynically told me that Israel should allow some PLO guerrillas to murder civilians in order to prove its claim.

The State Department says that the PLO has lived up to the resolution of the September, 1988, Palestine National Council. In fact, the State Department rejected that document at the time as not having met minimum U.S. criteria for the PLO's recognizing Israel and rejecting terrorism. The real test is whether the PLO lives up to the more forthcoming promises made by Arafat in Geneva in December, 1988.

The report does not tell members of Congress that the State Department's confidential talking points to the PLO demanded that it `publicly disassociate' itself `from terrorism by any Palestinian group operating anywhere.' If any PLO group or its members committed terrorism, `We expect that you not only condemn this action publicly but also discipline those responsible for it, at least by expelling them from the PLO.' Even Egypt's government has criticized Arafat's refusal to condemn such operations. To cite one example, Fatah's No. 2 man, Abu Iyad, defined an attack near the Israeli town of Dimona last year, in which three Israeli civilians were murdered, as a legitimate case of armed struggle.

The U.S.-PLO dialogue should continue. But the Israel-Palestinian peace process can only achieve an historic compromise--possibly including a national homeland for the Palestinians--if it is approached honestly. The U.S. government should not twist reality in order to defend the PLO's reputation.

(Barry Rubin, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, is author of `Inside the PLO; Officials, Notables and Revolutionaries,' published by the institute.)


From the Wall Street Journal, Mar. 22, 1990


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The Bush Administration's PLO Cover-Up

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A month ago, terrorists opened fire on a bus of Israeli tourists near Cairo. Nine Israelis were machine-gunned to death. When the Palestine Liberation Organization issued a statement that appeared to justify the attack, the Egyptian government made its fury known to the PLO and the world media. And what was the official American reaction to the PLO statement? Nothing, Not a word.

Refusal to criticize the PLO has now become a cornerstone of Bush administration policy. The latest manifestation of this disposition to whitewash the Palestinian group is the report that the State Department presented to Congress on Monday, as required by the PLO Commitments Compliance Act enacted last month.

In December 1988, Yasser Arafat told the world that he `renounced' terrorism and `recognized' the state of Israel. By uttering those magic words, Mr. Arafat immediately gained the recognition of the U.S. But Mr. Arafat has a long history of saying one thing and doing another. In fact, just one month before. Mr. Arafat had been denied a visa to the U.S. by the Reagan State Department because it found that, despite his claims that he had abandoned terror, he was directing terrorist acts through such front groups as Force 17 and the Hawaii Organization.

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At the first meeting between U.S. and PLO representatives in December 1988, the Americans told the PLO--according to a list of `talking points' recently published by the Israeli government--that the dialogue would be broken off if the PLO resumed terrorism: `No American administration can sustain the dialogue if terrorism continues by the PLO or any of its factions.' In addition, the U.S. required the PLO to `publicly disassociate' itself from `terrorism by any Palestinian groups operating anywhere.' Finally, the U.S. said that it expected the PLO to condemn any terrorist act carried out by `any element of the PLO' and to expel that element from the PLO.

The Bush administration maintains that the PLO has met those conditions. Monday's State Department report says, `the PLO has adhered to its commitment undertaken in 1988 to renounce terrorism.'

But what about the numerous terrorist attacks on Israel since December 1988? The State Department report reluctantly acknowledge that nine `border attacks'-- the new diplomatic euphemism for terrorist attacks--against Israel have been launched by `constituent groups of the PLO' over the past 14 months. Those incidents do not invalidate the report's conclusion, the report says, because `the intended target of the attack was unclear' except for three of the attacks in which the report concedes that `civilians appeared to be the target.' But the three attacks directed at civilians were, the report insists, neither authorized nor approved by Mr. Arafat or the PLO Executive Committee.

All of this is dangerously misleading or positively untrue. The State Department report omits any mention of the multiple terrorist attacks carried out by groups that sit on the PLO Executive Committee, including raids by Mr. Arafat's Fatah group. Constituent groups of the PLO have openly taken credit for more than 18 attempted terrorist attacks on Israel from Labanon, Egypt, Jordan and the Mediterranean over the past 14 months. In the West Bank and Gaza, many Palestinians have been murdered at the explicit--and documented--direction of the PLO and Fatah.

As for the nine PLO that the State Department report does acknowledge, it is not true that there is no evidence about their targets. There is clear and compelling evidence that the intended target of each one of them was civilian.

To take just one example: On Jan. 26, three guerrillas armed with machine guns, grenades and explosives attempted to penetrate the northern Israeli border from Lebanon. Intercepted by Israeli soldiers, the squad was killed in a shootout. In the terrorists' possession, besides weapons, was a map revealing one--and only one--target: a kibbutz called Misgav Am. The group that claimed responsibility for the abortive Misgav Am attack--as well as five others that were equally unsuccessful--is the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which sits on the PLO Executive Committee. One of the DFLP's senior officials, Yasser abd al-Rabbu, is the head of the PLO delegation to the U.S.-PLO dialogue in Tunis.

Confronted with this accumulation of evidence, State Department spokesman Adam Shub averred: `None of the cross-border attacks has succeeded, so we don't know what the targets would have been. Therefore we can't call them terrorist. We don't know what they were planning.' The State Department dismisses the written evidence from the Misgav Am raid as `inconclusive.' When offered transcripts of the confessions of captured terrorists by the Israeli government, the State Department said that the interrogations were not `reliable.' When offered an opportunity to interview the captured guerrillas first-hand, the U.S. refused.

When the Bush administration finds itself unable to deny that an attack occurred, it blames some rogue Palestinian element, never the PLO itself. As Monday's report puts it, `We have no evidence in those cases or any others that the actions were authorized or approved by the PLO Executive Committee.'

But this is to misunderstand how the PLO works. The PLO is an umbrella organization, and its central committees do not attempt to control the operations of its member groups. The issue is not, what does the PLO Executive Committee order or authorize; the issue is, are the groups that constitute the PLO complying with the commitment they collectively made to the U.S. in December 1988? As State Department spokesman Charles Redman said in March 1989, `If the PLO cannot or will not exercise such control, it raises questions concerning the commitment undertaken in the name of the PLO--indeed, questions about the PLO's ability to carry out its commitments.'

The Bush administration is particularly at pains to avoid criticism of Mr. Arafat's own Fatah wing of the PLO. On Dec. 5, five guerrillas infiltrated the Israeli Negev from the Egyptian Sinai. They carried no identification and the labels in their clothes had been cut out--all they had were Kalashnikov rifles, explosives and 51 grenades. Israeli soldiers intercepted them.

Faced with incontestable documentation that the five were affiliated with Fatah, John Kelly, assistant secretary of state for Near East and South Asian Affairs, argued before Congress three weeks ago that while `there may have been Fatah members involved,' they were `operating without sanctions from their leadership.' In private conversation, though, State Department officials have admitted Fatah sponsorship of the attack. It is highly unlikely that Mr. Arafat, a man who insists on approving the smallest actions of his Fatah organization, down to the purchase of its fax machines, could have been unaware of it. The attack is not mentioned in the State Department report.

The contortions the Bush administration goes through to protect the PLO can verge on the grotesque. Last August, a Palestinian fundamentalist from Gaza wrenched the steering wheel of an Israeli bus away from the driver. The bus plunged into a ravine: 15 Israelis and one American were killed. The terrorist act was captured on television, and within six hours of the incident, the Israeli government had provided a detailed accounting of the attack.

The usual unnamed State Department official termed the event `senseless' and `tragic'--but categorically refused to label it an act of terrorism.


Only after two days had elapsed--and after a bitter Israel protest that the Bush administration's failure to condemn the murder gave a `license to kill every Palestinian individual or organization'--did the State Department see fit to label it a terrorist attack. Why the two day delay? A State Department spokesman said at the time that the U.S. had only belatedly acquired the necessary information. But in fact, according to a senior U.S. official, the real reason was that the Bush administration was afraid that the mass slaying had been a PLO operation. Only when PLO responsibility was ruled out did the administration feel free to call it a terrorist operation.

Last summer, the Israelis dispatched Yigal Carmon, the Israeli government's adviser on counter-terrorism, to Washington with proof--maps, documents, leaflets--that, despite the American `talking points,' PLO groups had not ceased their terrorist raids. He also brought tapes of speeches in Arabic by Mr. Arafat in which he condoned terrorist attacks.

State Department officials at first refused to meet with Mr. Carmon, before finally agreeing to a perfunctory meeting. But the Bush administration apparently did not feel confident that others would find Mr. Carmon's documents quite so uninteresting--so he was instructed not to speak to Congress and the media.

On March 1, Secretary of State James Baker testified before Congres. `. . . we have not received or seen evidence of complicity or encouragement or acquiescence by [Mr. Arafat] of terrorist activity.' If Mr. Baker has not seen the evidence, it is because he has ordered his underlings not to collect it.

(Mr. Emerson, who writes frequently on foreign and intelligence matters, is the co-author of the forthcoming book `The Fair of Pan Am 103: Inside the Lockerbie Investigation' Putman.)