Abul Abbas is best known for his terrorist attack on the Achille Lauro cruise ship in October 1985 during which an American, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered in his wheelchair and thrown overboard.
On May 30, the Palestine Liberation Front, an arm of the PLO led by Abul Abbas, launched a seaborne terrorist attack on Israel. The attack began in Libya, where the terrorists embarked in one boat, then launched six smaller boats off Israel's coast. Four of the boats had technical problems and the Israeli military succeeded in blocking the last two. After a short battle on a beach near Tel Aviv, 4 of the terrorists were killed and 12 were captured.
One of the captured terrorists openly admitted that his objective was to massacre Israeli civilians. He said, on Israeli television, that his mission was to `kill as many civilians as possible.'
The objective of the foiled attack was clearly to turn the heart of Israel's largest city into a battle zone. One captured terrorist said publicly, `My personal mission was to go into the Sheraton Hotel. * * * `You must go in and clean it out,' they told us. `Don't leave anyone alive--children, women, old people. Don't leave anyone alive. Kill them.'
It is clear, given the number of terrorists involved, the weapons and maps they carried, and the timing and destination of the attack that the purpose was to stage a spectacular massacre that would fundamentally change the political landscape.
Clearly, the attack was a violation of the PLO's commitment to renounce terrorism. It was more than an ambiguous or borderline violation of the supposed promise to break with terrorism--it was a flagrant breach of the trust of the United States.
When the United States began an official dialog with the PLO in December 1988 it took Yasser Arafat at his word. That word was worthless. The United States has demanded that Arafat condemn the attack of May 30 and move to expel Abul Abbas from the PLO's executive committee. Arafat has not only refused to take any action against Abbas--he refuses to condemn the attack or even call it terrorism.
Arafat's Chief Deputy Salah Khalaf specifically stated in a June 3 interview:
The [U.S.] request is refused, absolutely * * *. We never committed ourselves that we are going to stop our military resistance.
In other words an attack that could have resulted in dozens of Israeli civilian dead the PLO calls `military resistance.'
Last week the PLO's executive committee met for 2 days in Baghdad to discuss its response to the U.S. request to condemn and expel one of its members for the May 30 raid. The resulting statement not only failed to condemn the attack or announce any action against Abul Abbas, it condemned the United States for `protecting Israel and its crimes.'
The PLO does not regard the deliberate killing of Israeli civilians as terrorism. It is that simple. To the extent that anyone has been able to understand the PLO definition of terrorism, it is limited to hijacking and bombings outside of Israel.
As Salah Khalaf told Los Angeles Times after the attack:
From the beginning, we made it clear to the American Ambassador in Tunis that we are committed to renouncing terrorism outside the occupied territories and Israel, but we didn't commit ourself to stop our armed struggle.
In other words, the PLO regards the State of Israel as a free-fire zone where any atrocity they commit is by definition not terrorism but armed struggle.
Obviously, the PLO is trying to have it both ways: to continue to use terrorism while enjoying the recognition and support of civilized nations. This cannot continue. The PLO, if it wishes to deal with the United States, must break with terror, fully and fundamentally. By terrorism we mean attacks directed against civilians. The deliberate murder of innocent civilians is terrorism--calling it legitimate armed struggle or military operations does not change that fact.
It is impossible for PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to escape shared responsibility for this attack. First, as State Department spokesman Charles Redman said:
If the PLO cannot or will not exercise 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. (New York Times, March 3, 1989.)
Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs John Kelly also specifically addressed this question. After confirming that the administration viewed the Abul Abbas' PLF as a PLO member group, Abassador Kelly said, `If we had information that indicated, for instance, that an element of the PLO * * * was involved in committing the act and that there were orders from the leadership to do it, we would draw the conclusion that they had violated the statement they made in December 1988.'
Within the PLO, Abul Abbas has been known as an ally and protege of Yasser Arafat. Abbas sided with Arafat in at least two key junctures in recent years; the 1984 Palestine National Congress meeting at which there was a split on diplomatic strategy, and during the fighting in Lebanon with pro-syrian PLO factions. The U.S. Defense Department's study `Terrorist Group Profiles' states that the PLF led by Abul Abbas `supports Arafat's leadership.'
I am confident that the administration will move to cut off the U.S.-PLO dialog. The State Department and the President are to be commended for moving quickly and unequivocally to condemn the May 30 attack as a terrorist attack.
Once the U.S.-PLO dialog is suspended, there are lessons to be learned before it is resumed. First, PLO rhetoric alone cannot be relied upon. Only concrete actions that irrevocably demonstrate a fundamental change in the nature and strategy of the PLO will demonstrate that the PLO has in fact broken with its bloody past.
Second, turning a blind eye to PLO terrorism doesn't work. Many observers of the PLO believe that the most recent attack has only been the most serious of many since the PLO's December 1988 commitments. The March 19 State Department report bent over backwards to explain away or ignore actions that I believe were violations of the PLO's commitments. This approach has been proven counter productive, as the PLO took our lenient approach as a green light to escalate its terrorist attacks.
Third, American diplomats should drop the notion that we need the U.S.-PLO dialog to continue the peace process. It is not as if communication with the PLO would end if the official dialog were ended. Even without the dialog, the United States would communicate with the PLO through Egypt and other third parties. Ending the dialog only ends the quasi-recognition that the United States has bestowed upon the PLO as a reward for promises now broken.
Fourth, it is time to focus on a tenet of U.S. policy that remains valid but has been neglected. Now is the time to focus our efforts on attaining peace treaties between Israel and the Arab States. It is unrealistic and imprudent to expect Israel to cede territory to a new Arab state except in the context of peace agreements with the Arab States with armies that can threaten her existence. At the Arab summit in Baghdad, Iraq repeated its threat to wipe out half of Israel with chemical weapons if Israel acts again to prevent Iraq from developing nuclear weapons.
Mr. President, it is time to end the U.S.-PLO dialog, and not resume it until the PLO has taken concrete steps to end its campaign of terrorism against Israel. These steps must include, but should not be limited to, the condemnation of the May 30 terrorist attack and the expulsion of Abul Abbas from the PLO's executive committee.
Personally, I do not believe that simply expelling Abul Abbas from the PLO would be sufficient evidence that the PLO was no longer a terrorist organization. We would not let a convicted murderer off the hook if he renounced murder and turned in a fellow killer to the authorities. Particularly if that murderer had a long record of denying responsibility for crimes he continued to commit and justify.
Terrorists use murder as a tool of diplomacy. It is inappropriate, if not naive, to apply legalistic norms and diplomatic niceties to terrorists. Innocent lives are at stake; we must not apply the standard of trust that would apply to civilized nations to a band of dangerous international criminals.
There comes a time when we must stop acting as if the PLO are a bunch of naughty boys whose mischief reflects a harmless and passing phase of development. The PLO leadership is not only guilty of dozens of premeditated murders, they continue to justify their past crimes while promising to commit more.
It would be entirely appropriate for a nation that is a victim of such crimes to seek to bring the criminals to justice, or to retaliate militarily in a proportionate manner. The United
States has responded militarily with similar provocation against Libya, the same country whose government was directly supported in the May 30 PLO attack.
While the United States does not need to respond to an attack on our ally Israel militarily, we certainly must treat the attack with the utmost seriousness.
The PLO is a heavily armed repeat offender who shows no remorse. We must not give Yasser Arafat the diplomatic equivalent of parole based on promises and cosmetic actions. In my view, the PLO's trail of blood is too long to accept anything less than a clear track record demonstrating fundamental and practically irreversible changes of heart and policy before any dialog is resumed.
Yesterday, Secretary of State James Baker testified that, in making its decision on whether to suspend the U.S.-PLO dialog, the United States would `not allow the pursuit of peace to undercut its commitment to combat terrorism.'
While I agree with Secretary Baker's sentiment, I disagree with the premise that promoting peace and combating terrorism are conflicting principles. Holding the PLO accountable for its terrorist acts is an absolute prerequisite to any peace process that will promote the freedom and security of Israel. A peace process that turns a blind eye to PLO terrorism will not lead to peace, and is not in the interest of the United States or Israel.
I ask unanimous consent that the text of Senate Concurrent Resolution 138 as introduced yesterday be reprinted at this point in the Record. I also ask unanimous consent that Senators Wilson, Specter, Metzenbaum, Lott, Cranston, Cohen, Dixon, Gramm, Packwood, Coats, DeConcini, and Warner be added as cosponsors.
The resolution follows:
Mr. MACK, (for himself, Mr. Lieberman, Mr. Lautenberg, Mr. Grassley, Mr. Mitchell, Mr. Gramm, and, Mr. Nickles) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations:
Whereas, Section 1302 of Public Law 99-83 states that `no officer or employee of the United States Government . . . shall negotiate with the PLO or any representatives thereof . . . unless and until the PLO recognizes Israel's right to exist, accepts United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and renounces the use of terrorism';
Whereas, on May 30, 1990, the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF), a member organization of the PLO, attempted a terrorist attack against Israel;
Whereas, the leadership of the PLO has yet to condemn the May 30 terrorist attempt or to expel PLF leader Abdul Abbas from PLO's Executive Committee; Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring) declares that--
(1) the PLO should condemn the May 30 PLF attack on Israel:
(2) the PLO should expel PLF leader Abdul Abbas from the PLO Executive Committee given his role in the attack; and
(3) if these PLO actions are not taken in the immediate future, the United States should suspend its dialog with the PLO until the PLO has fully demonstrated by concrete actions, including condemning the recent attack and expelling Abdul Abbas from its Executive Committee, the PLO's commitments to recognize Israel's right to exist and renounce the use of terrorism.