The United States should invite Yasser Arafat or some other leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization of Washington as a follow-up to President Carter's Camp David summit, the ranking Republican on the House Mideast subcommittee said yesterday.
Rep. Paul Findley of Illinois said he had made the proposal directly to Carter at the White House on Monday but received a noncommittal reply from the president at that time.
"I got the feeling that he had not foreclosed the possibility." Findley said of Carter. Findley said the president told him that because of a longstanding agreement "he would feel the obligation to consult with Israel" before inviting any PLO leader to the United States.
In hopes of pulling the PLO into the peace negotiations. Findley asked Menachem Begin during the Israeli prime minister's appearance before the House International Relations Committee session Tuesday whether "it wouldn't be prudent" for Israel to broaden negotiations to include the PLO now that the peace framework is in hand.
Begin, according to Findley, replied that this was "out of the question." The Israeli leader added: "Why should we negotiate our own suicide?"
The congressman said he then asked Begin if he would object to the U.S. government inviting a PLO leader to Washington. "He didn't answer that question," said Findley, "and frankly I'm glad he didn't answer it."
Given the restraints Carter inherited on inviting PLO leaders to Washington, Findley said he will push on his own to get Arafat or some other PLO leader to this country so fellow House members "will see them as people rather than as a stereotype of fanatical bomb-throwing terrorists."
After all, continued Findley, "Begin was a terrorist. (Egyptian President Anwar Sadat was a terrorist."
Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho), who is in line to become chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, strongly rejected Findley's idea yesterday when asked about.
"At best," said Church, such a visit "would complicate" a delicate diplomatic situation and "at worst lead to the undermining of the Camp David accords."
Under those accords, continued Church, West Bank voters are scheduled to elect their own leaders "who would have the best claim to legitimacy" in representing the Palestinians.
Both Church and Chairman Clement J. Zablocki (D-Wis.) of the House International Relations Committee said their main hopes right now are to stabilize the Mideast so countries there can divert their energies from preparing for war to developing their economices.
Church and Zablocki said would do whatever possible to foster such a regional economic development in the Mideast, including providing "substantial" increases in economic aid to Mideast countries. But the two warned that military assisance would have to continue at present levels for at least the next two years.