Rep. Paul N. (Pete) McCloskey Jr. (R-Calif.) said yesterday he had "no apology" for promoting a statement by the Palestine Liberation Organization as recognizing Israel's right to exist, and maintained that the statement represented a "significant breakthrough."
Back from a controversial congressional fact-finding trip to the Middle East, McCloskey told a news conference that "there was no question that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat wanted to convey a signal that he was ready to recognize Israel's right to exist."
McCloskey denied that Arafat had used him in a publicity ploy when the PLO leader signed a handwritten statement accepting "all U.N. resolutions relevant to the Palestinian question," after meeting with the congressional delegation July 25.
"If we were used in any way it was because the press reacted so strongly" and pressured him for a report immediately on emerging from the meeting with Arafat, McCloskey complained.
The Reagan administration later said the statement failed to recognize Israel's right to exist "in a clear and unequivocal way," and therefore didn't meet U.S. conditions for dealing with the PLO.
"In every Arab heart there is the inexorable conviction" that the Israeli invasion would not be happening "without the consent and indeed the approval of the United States," McCloskey said. "We pay the price of that hatred growing in a substantial part of the world."
He said that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had warned the group that, unless the United States supported the creation of a separate Palestinian state, "you are going to need armored divisions to protect your embassies in this part of the world."
McCloskey said that both Mubarak and Saudi Arabian King Fahd had also cautioned that the Soviet Union would benefit from U.S. policies in the Middle East.
McCloskey and two other members of the delegation, Reps. Nick J. Rahall (D-W.Va.) and Mary Rose Oakar (D-Ohio), called on the United States to work for an independent Palestinian state.