19 December 1988 Leadership key to PLO


EPHRATA — Now that the United States is talking with the Palestine Liberation Organization, George Bush’s ability to sit in front of Israel “and not blink” conference with the PLO determine whether peace comes to the Mideast, said a Palestinian-American activist here.

Paraphrasing the next president’s campaign slogan about Russian leader Gorbachev, Dr Mohammad Said said chances for peace between Palestinians and Israelis are good if the United Stated continues to show leadership.

Said credited a resolution approved at the Washington State Democratic Convention with helping lead to the United States government’s decision to talk to the PLO.

The end of the long United States boycott followed an address to the United Nations General Assembly in Geneva Dec. 13 by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat

The initial government reaction of Arafat’s speech was negative, but after Arafat made clear at a press conference that the PLO renounced the use of terrorism and accepted Israel’s right to exist, talks were held.

Said, who was born in the Israeli town of Haifa and still has family living on the strife-torn West Bank, said he carried a message from the U.S. Delegation at Geneva to Arafat an hour before his press conference, asking him to make clear the PLO’s intentions.

“I also shared with him some of my thoughts, particularly in regard to the uprising (on the West Bank),” the doctor said.

Though Arafat has renounced terrorism, he has to make clear he cannot stop the demonstrations by Palestinians who live there “or he would be finished politically, ” Said added.

While some are skeptical about Arafat’s sincerity, the feelings of the Palestinians revolting against Israeli rule on the West Bank pressured the PLO into seeking a political solution, the doctor said.

Said addressed the PLO National Congress in Algiers in November, sharing a resolution drafted by Washington Democrats that in essence sets forth the same position the PLO is accepting.

Representatives of Palestinians living in Israel-occupied territories “had a tremendous impact” in Algiers, he said. “They gave us a message, get you acts together and come up with a political solution…. We are willing to live with the Israelis here.’”

The United Stated should pressure Israel to work with the PLO on guaranteeing Israel’s security while establishing a Palestinian state the doctor said.

The current talks are “a good first step,” he said, though he criticized the U.S. Government for still resisting an international peace conference to discuss the issue. If the new president shows leadership peace is “achievable in this administration, and Bush could win the Nobel Peace Prize.”

Said came to Ephrata in 1962 after working for more than eight years in the Midwest. After he and his family decided to settle in Washington, they drove to the state where he found by accident that Dr. Wayne Piper was dying of lung cancer and was looking for someone to take over his practice here.

The Said’s also own a farm, and have a small apple orchard. “I’m living the American dream” the doctor said. Palestinians want the same sort of life– in their own state. “So they can live as a happily as we do here.”