Israel's accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization are based on the assumption that the PLO has sincerely transformed itself from a terrorist organization and is prepared to live in peace with Israel.
The PLO's record during the two years since the first peace accords were signed shows, however, a consistent pattern of violating commitments.
Ensuring that the PLO keeps its commitments is important because, as Sens. Joseph Lieberman (D.-Conn.) and Connie Mack (R.-Fla.) have written, "So long as the PLO and [leader Yasser] Arafat are not held to commitments they have made, there will be no peace."
Here are some specifics. The PLO has pledged to "discipline" PLO members or factions that engage in terrorism — but several PLO factions (the Hawks division of Arafat's Fatah, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) have continued carrying out attacks against Israelis. Despite this, Arafat has not expelled them from the PLO or taken any other disciplinary steps against them.
While the accords require Arafat and the PLO to take "all measures necessary" to prevent anti-Israeli terror by groups like the fundamentalist Muslim Hamas, they have not disarmed Hamas members, shut down their training camps or honored any of Israel's requests for the extradition of 15 terrorists.
The accords also obligate Arafat to call upon Palestinian Arab audiences to "reject terrorism and violence." Instead, he continually makes speeches calling for "jihad [holy war], via deaths, via battles" and praises those who have murdered Israelis as "heroes" and "stars." He tells Arab audiences that the accords are just one phase in the PLO's 1974 "Strategy of Phases" for destroying Israel gradually. And he refuses to change the PLO Covenant, even though 30 of its 33 clauses call for the destruction of Israel or urge violence against Israel.
Despite the PLO's record of violating virtually every aspect of the accords, the Clinton administration is pushing ahead with its plan to give the PLO $500 million in U.S. aid over five years. Congress has rightly made such aid conditional on the PLO's fulfilling its commitments. But Congress also created a significant loophole by giving the president the sole power to "certify" that the PLO is in compliance with the accords.
President Clinton has decided that it is, basing his determination on biannual State Department reports that have minimized, distorted or ignored the many PLO violations. Both U.S. Rep. Benjamin Gilman (R.-N.Y.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and the Jerusalem Post, Israel's English-language daily called the most recent State Department report a "whitewash."
That whitewash has not convinced the American public. A Luntz Poll taken in May 1995 found that 78 percent of Americans opposed giving further aid to the PLO until it keeps its commitments. A survey of American Jews by the American Jewish Committee, released in September, found 63 percent oppose further "economic assistance to the Palestinians"; 71 percent say that Arafat and the PLO cannot be "relied upon to honor agreements and refrain from terrorism"; 91 percent believe that "the PLO is not doing enough to control terrorist activities against Israel"; and 56 percent believe that "the goal of the Arabs is not the return of occupied territories, but rather the destruction of Israel."
Opposition to aid to the PLO is especially understandable in view of the mounting evidence of corruption in the PLO's handling of foreign donations. Great Britain is investigating the PLO's misappropriation of part of a $5 million British donation, while Norway and the United Nations Oversight Committee are investigating the disappearance of a $100,000 Norwegian grant that was supposed to fund a PLO agricultural project. At least $16 million in foreign contributions that was intended for humanitarian projects was diverted to PLO military and propaganda activities in Lebanon last year.
Does the PLO even need American money? A 1993 study by the British National Criminal Intelligence found that the PLO has worldwide assets of $8-10 billion and an annual income of $1.5-2 billion.
Meanwhile, the U.S. General Accounting Office recently concluded its own investigation of the PLO's assets and a declassified report said last month that Arafat has "launched several attempts to frustrate" donor controls over aid to his Palestinian Authority, which controls the Gaza Strip and increasing parts of the West Bank.
Many Americans also wonder why the United States should help an organization that murdered Americans in the past and to this day makes no apology or effort at restitution. Prominent American victims of PLO terror include Cleo Noel Jr., the U.S. ambassador to the Sudan; Gail Rubin, niece of the late U.S. Sen. Abraham Ribicoff; and Leon Klinghoffer, the tourist shot to death in his wheelchair aboard the Achille Lauro.
The U.S. government must pressure the PLO for compliance before the latter takes control of more territory: The more territorial gains the PLO makes, the less incentive it will have to abide by the accords. Money can be used as leverage to pressure the PLO to comply with its commitments. Congress should suspend all U.S. aid to the PLO immediately; aid should be resumed only after Congress has determined that the PLO has complied with its commitments, for a period of not less than six months.