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Leaked Cables on Arab/Islamic World:
Discussion with PLO on Ma'alot Attack and Peace Opportunities

(May 17, 1974)


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Classified diplomatic cables, leaked by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks, contain this conversation between a  U.S. embassy official in Beirut and a PLO representative of Yasser Arafat. The conversation discusses the Palestinian terror attack on Maalot and the PLO's claim to be interested in a political settlement, but not before a Syrian-Israeli disengagement agreement.

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FM AMEMBASSY BEIRUT
TO AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY

JERUSALEM FOR SECRETARY'S PARTY

SUBJECT: PLO VIEW ON RECENT EVENTS

SUMMARY. IN CONVERSATION WITH EMBOFF ON SOCIAL OCCASION EVENING MAY 16 PLO REP FOR LEBANON CHAFIC AL HUT MADE SOME INTERESTING COMMENTS ABOUT CURRENT STATE OF PLAY IN PLO, ON MAALOT TRAGEDY AND ON ISRAELI AIR STRIKES ON REFUGEE CAMPS. MAIN THRUST OF AL HUT REMARKS WAS THAT 'ARAFAT AND MOST FEDAYEEN LEADERS, INCLUDING HAWATMEH, STILL FAVOR POLITICAL SETTLEMENT PROVIDED THERE IS ADEQUATE BENEFIT FOR PALESTINIAN PEOPLE; NOTHING RE PALESTINIAN CAUSE CAN REALISTICALLY BE EXPECTED TO ADVANCE UNTIL SYRIAN-ISRAELI DISENGAGEMENT AGREEMENT CONCLUDED; AND THAT 'ARAFAT STILL HOPING FOR USG SUPPORT OF CONCEPT OF PALESTINIAN "NATIONAL AUTHORITY" IN WEST BANK AND GAZA. END SUMMARY.

1. EVENING OF MAY 16 EMBOFF ENCOUNTERED PLO REP TO LEBANON CHAFIC AL HUT AT SOCIAL OCCASION AT HOME OF EMBASSY LOCAL EMPLOYEE. AL HUT HAS HAD SPORADIC CONTACTS WITH MEMBERS THIS EMBASSY OVER PAST FIVE OR SIX YEARS AND IS KNOWN TO BE CLOSE TO 'ARAFAT.

2. ASKED ABOUT ATTITUDE OF NAYEF HAWATMEH AND PDFLP FOLLOWING MAALOT TRADEDY AND HAWATMEH'S MAY 16 PRESS CONFERENCE CRITICIZING SECRETARY KISSINGER'S PRESENT MISSION, AL HUT SAID THAT HE HAD BEEN OPPOSED TO MAALOT OPERATION AND WAS PREPARING WRITE ARTICLE CRITICAL OF IT WHEN HE WAS TOLD PDFP RATHER THAN PFLP/GC OR PFLP/BEHIND IT AND THAT FOR REASONS FATAH/PDFLP SOLIDARITY HE SHOULD REMAIN SILENT. AL HUT SAID THAT WHILE HE REMAINS OPPOSED TO USE OF INNOCENT PEOPLE AS HOSTAGES AND INDISCRIMINATE USE OF VIOLENCE, IT NEVERTHELESS A FACT THAT HAWATMEH'S POSITION INSIDE PLO HAD BECOME VERY MUCH STRONGER AS RESULT OF MAALOT. PRIOR TO MAALOT, HAWATMEH HAD BEEN IN CONSIDERABLE TROUBLE AND HAD LOST MOST INFLUENCE BECAUSE OF HIS SUPPORTING 'ARAFAT ON IDEA OF PALESTINIAN "NATIONAL AUTHORITY" AND BECUASE OF INTERVIEW HE HAD PUBLISHED IN ISRAELI PRESS. HAWATMEHH HAD REACTED, AFTER KIRYAT SHEMONA, IN ONLY WAY HE SAW WHICH WOULD STRENGTHEN HIS HAND AND HAD SUCCEEDED IN SO DOING. NOW HE CAN IMPOSE HIS VIEWPOINT TO GREATER DEGREE THAN BEFORE ON THOSE WHO DISAGREE.

3. AL HUT SAID THATHE AND 'ARAFAT CONVINCED THAT DESPITE ANYTHING SAID PUBLICLY, HAWATMEH REMAINS FIRMLY COMMITTED TO POLITICAL SOLUTION PROVIDED THERE IS PALESTNIAN PARTICIPATION AND IT LEADS TO ESTABLISHMENT PALESTINIAN "NATIONAL AUTHORITY". HAWATMEH'S CRITICISMS OF KISSINGER MEANT TO STRESS IMPORTANCE OF USG INDICATING THAT IT COULD SUPPORT THESE IDEAS, AND NOT DECIDING ADOPT KING HUSSEIN'S PROPOSAL FOR FEDERATION.

4. EMBOFF SAID THAT SO FAR AS HE KNEW USG HAS NOT ADOPTED ANYONE'S PROPOSALS RE SOLUTION OF PALESTINIAN PROBLEM BUT WE HAVE SAID REPEATEDLY, AND MEAN, HAT WE UNDERSTAND IMPORTANCE OF RESOLVIN SATISFACTORILY PROBLEM OF PALESTINIAN PEOPLE IF THERE IS TO BE ANY REAL HOPE FOR LASTING MIDDLE EAST SETTLEMENT. HE ASKED AL HUT IF AND WHEN PALESTINIANS AND KEY ARAB GOVTS. INCLUDING JORDANIAN, EGYPTIAN, ETC., WOULD BE ABLE REACH AGREEMENT AMONG SELVES ON APPROACH TO PROBLEM. AL HUT SAID THIS MIGHT BE POSSIBLE AFTER SYRIAN-ISRAELI DISENGAGEMENT AGREEMENT BUT NOT BEFORE.

5. AL HUT SEEMED RELATIVELY CALM IN DISCUSSING ISRAELI AIR ATTACK ON REFUGEE CAMPS AND SOME FEDAYEEN BUILDINS SAYING PALESTINIANS ACCUSTOMED TO THIS SORT OF SACRIFICE. HE COMMENTED THAT ACTUAL FEDAYEEN CASUALTIES LIGHT SINCE THEY MOVED OUT OF USUAL HAUNTS AS MATTER OF HABIT. PAST PALESTINIAN AND OTHER ARAB REACTION TO ISRAELI BOMBING OF REFUGEE CAMPS HAD NOT RPT NOT BEEN ONE OF GREATER CAUTION BUT GREATER DETERMINATION PRESS AHEAD.

6. COMMENT: AL HUT'S REMARKS WERE GENERALLY CONSISTENT WITH VIEW HE HAS EXPRESSED IN PAST AND WHAT ELSE WE KNOW OF HIS CURRENT THINKING. (HE HAS DEFENDED 'ARFAT'S VIEW ON GENEVA PARTICIPATION, "NATIONAL AUTHORITY", ETC. IN NUMBER OF STORMY DEBATES OVER PAST FEW MONTHS.)

SECRET


Sources: Wikileaks

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