Ambassador Andrew Young was at loggerheads again yesterday with both the State Department and Israel in the latest chapter of the controversy that brought about his resignation last Wednesday.
Still in office as ambassador to the United Nations pending selection and confirmation of his successor, and still expressing strong views on Mideast issues, Young told a national television audience that the U.S. policy of not talking to the Palestine Liberation Organization is "ridiculous" and that the Israeli government is "stubborn and intransigent" as well as expansionist.
On "Face the Nation" (CBS, WDVM), Young repeated a charge made earlier to The New York Times that the State Department, while claiming to be in the dark about his meeting with a PLO representative in New York City July 16, actually had a detailed, almost verbatim account of the conversation in its possession within four days.
"I don't know how they got it but I have seen such a report," Young told his television interviewers just before noon.
At 6p.m. after consultation with Young and a check of classified documents, the State Department issued a terse denial of the ambassador's charge.
The State Department had insisted since the controversy came to light that it first learned of Young's meeting with the PLO'S U.N. observer, Zehdi Labib Terzi, on Aug. 11, when Newsweek magazine began asking about it. Newsweek is reported to have received its tip from Israeli sources in Israel.
State Department spokesman Thomas Reston said that, on the basis of a careful check of records at the department and its United Nations mission, "we have determined that prior to Aug. 11 there was no account available in the State Department of Ambassador Young's meeting with Mr. Terzi on July 26."
Reston added, "There was information available on July 30 that on July 26 a suggestion was made that Ambassador Young meet with Mr. Terzi but not that a meeting had been agreed upon."
Informed sources indicated that Young had been given access several days ago to the July 30 intelligence report. But the sources said that a reference in the report to a Young Terzi meeting had not been considered credible when it was received in July, and was not followed up.
Department officials continued to maintain that they had been stunned by the revelation a week ago that Young had actually met the PLO representative to discuss U.N. business, without either authorization from the State Department or an after action report.
White house officials with access to the most closely held foreign policy and intelligence information were also in the dark about the Young Terzi meeting until after the Newsweek inquiry Aug. 11, according to knowledgeable sources. This very lack of information at the high levels of both the White House and State Department caused Young's initial cover story and its retraction to be made public in a way that let almost inexorable to his resignation, in the view of several officials.
Young told reporters in New York yesterday that he had learned of the July 30 intelligence report Aug. 15, the day he resigned from office. He said he had planned not to say anything about it but "when folks at the State Department started putting out the word that I had to resign because I lied, that got to be too much."
A State Department official told reporters that Young does not disagree with the statement issued by Reston late yesterday. But Young was unavailable for comment following the announcement that no report of his conversation with Terzi had been found in the files. A close associate said Young would have nothing to say at this time.
An account in the current issue of Time magazine, released last night, suggested that Young had been detected by the espionage network that Israel maintains in New York for monitoring Arab states. Quoting a U.S. government source. Time said Young's conversation with Terzi at the home of Kuwait's U.N. ambassador had been picked up by an Israeli recording device planted there some time before. However, the magazine quoted a senior Israeli source as disputing that and as saying the information was obtained by interception of PLO communications rather than by bugging the Kuwaiti residence.
Young's meeting with a PLO representative took on major political dimensions because of a U.S. pledge to Israel in September 1975 not to "recognize or negotiate with" the PLO until it accepts Israel's right to exist and accepts United Nations Resolutions 242 and 338. In recent weeks, the United States has given a strict interpretation of this pledge, saying that it is a ban on any "substantive contact" by American officials with the PLO under existing circumstances.
Young has said previously he does not agree with the ban on talks with the PLO, but in his television interview he went further than before in his public opposition. "Our policy is kind of ridiculous . . . The American people believe in talking to people," he said.
How many lives is this policy worth?" he asked at another point. "If you're talking about a policy of non-communication with a legitimate power, whether you agree with them, whether they're terrorists or whatever they are, if you don't have some other means of allowing them to express their grievances or affirm their rights, or define their rights, you're going to get more death, more violence, more terrorism and more economic dislocations in the United States, which will have serious reverberations in the constituency that I think I represent in the Democratic Party."
Rather than abandoning the policy of no communication with the PLO, Young suggested redefining it. The original commitment made by then secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger four years ago left unclear to what extent American officials could deal with the PLO short of "negotiations." In practice this has been defined in different ways at different times.
Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Yigael Yadin, appearing on "Issues and Answers" (ABC, WJLA), defended a strict interpretation of the ban on U.S. negotiations with the PLO, which he called "an amalgamation of organizations of terror groups" sworn to destroy Israel.
Yadin said Israel had not used pressure to bring about the resignation of Young, but only "did the normal thing of protest" about his meeting with the PLO representative.
Young, while supporting the survival and integrity of Israel, charged that "the problem is that we have slipped over into a kind of expansionism of Israel, where Israeli troops are halfway up into Lebanon," and that Israeli occupation and other "gray areas" are threatening to bring about a redefinition of the U.S. relationship with the Jewish state. This political redefinition is particularly difficult "when you've got a stubborn and intransigent government in Israel," Young said.
One element of a potential redefinition of the U.S. role in the Mideast dispute appears to be withering because of strong Israeli opposition. This is the plan for a U.S. resolution in the United Nations to serve as an instrument by which the PLO could accept Israel's right to exist and the U.N. resolutions. By this, the PLO would be qualified for talks with the United States and, probably more important, might play a role in facilitating Palestinian participation in the Camp David peace process.
President Carter had been expected to make a final decision on such a resolution Tuesday or Wednesday, after the return here of special Mideast envoy Robert Strauss. Israel's rejection of such a plan and some reported misgivings in Egypt have dimmed the chances for such a U.S. initiative.
Chances that a compromise could be constructed appeared slim after the PLO'S central council issued an unyielding statement a week ago. But State Department officials did not take the PLO action as conclusive, and there were reports that Kuwait, especially, was continuing to express belief that the PLO was prepared to be more flexible than before in the wording of a new United Nations resolution on the Palestine problem.
Several leaders of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, the civil rights vehicle of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and of Young, then an aide to King, are scheduled to explore the Palestinian issue in meetings early this week in New York.
According to D.C. Delegate Walter Fauntroy, one of the SCLC leaders, meetings are scheduled today with PLO observer Terzi and Tuesday with Israeli U.N. Ambassador Yehuda Blum.
Fauntroy said blacks have a high stake in the nonviolent resolution of the conflict in the Middle East which is the world's largest oil exporting region. "As the gas lines and unemployemtn lines lengthen as prices skyrocket, it is we who will be the first fired, the last hired and the most hard hit economically," he said.
Israeli's Yadin, asked about tensions between blacks and Jews in the United States, said his nation's complaint against Young had nothing to do with his color. If the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. had been Jacob Goldstein rather than Andrew Young, the Israeli official said, a violation of the U.S. policy on the PLO would have brought a protest from Jerusalem in "exactly the same manner."