D.C. Del. Walter E. Fauntroy left last night for a planned meeting in Lebanon with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasser Arafat, a move that could arouse further concern among Jewish leaders here.
An aide said that Fauntroy is making the trip as chairman of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and that he hopes also to visit Israel and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. Fauntroy is accompanying SCLS president Joseph Lowery on the trip.
Fauntroy's aide said the trip resulted from meetings held by Lowery and Fauntroy last month with both PLO and Israeli officials in New York during the furor over the resignation of United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young.
Those meetings "led them to believe they could be of help in furthering discussions and peace (between Israel and the PLO)" Fauntroy's legislative assistant, Johnny Barnes, said last night. "This trip is the result of that."
On Sept. 10, Lowery said in Atlanta that he had been invited in August to meet in Lebanon with PLO leaders in Lebanon, and that the invitation was renewed this month.
"Let me make something very clear," Lowery said then, "we will not be negotiating . . . Let the U.N. work out borders and boundaries. We want to preach the moral principles of peace, nonviolence and human rights."
Some Jewish leaders here have described themselves as "deeply disturbed" over Fauntroy's role in the New York meeting with the PLO representatives.
In a brief interview last night, Samuel H. Sislen, program director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington said he had not heard about the planned visit to Lebanon.
However, he added, "I don't think that the Jewish community would be particularly pleased about anybody from the SCLC meeting with Mr. Arafat.
"Mr. Fauntroy is free to make his own decisions, of course," Sislen said, "but the Jewish community feels strongly that the PLO is a terrorist organization and that Mr. Arafat as head of it does not deserve the recognition that heads of state do . . . "
Asserting that the PLO has declared its opposition to the peace process outlined in the Camp David accords, Sislen questioned why Fauntroy "would want to negotiate" with Arafat.
According to Barnes, the SCLC leaders' desire to meet with Israeli Premier Begin springs from their strong desire "to make sure that Israel understands that they firmly believe in the existence of Israel and [that they] support that and don't want any misunderstanding about their conversation with Mr. Arafat as far as Israel is concerned."
Barnes said the White House has been told of the trip. The SCLC is the civil rights group once led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.