Two Palestinians declared acceptable by Israel last week as potential peace negotiators were intended only as "consultants" to a joint Palestinian-Jordanian delegation, according to high officials of Jordan and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
A senior Jordanian official said yesterday that if the United States insisted on the two as the only acceptable delegates among those proposed by Jordan and the PLO, "it would not be something that would indicate genuine seriousness on the part of the Americans."
The two -- Hanna Seniora, editor of Al Fajr, a pro-PLO newspaper in East Jerusalem, and Fayez Abu Rahme, chairman of the Gaza lawyers' association -- were on a list of 15 Palestinans proposed by Jordan and the PLO as members of a joint delegation to meet with U.S. officials in preliminary peace talks.
Israeli officials initially rejected the entire list, complaining that too many were affiliated with the PLO and making it clear that they wanted more residents of Israeli-occupied territories.
But last week Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said that Seniora and Abu Rahme, the only proposed delegates living in the occupied territories, would be acceptable to Israel. A senior adviser to Peres also said that Peres regarded the two as "representatives of legitimate Palestinian moderation."
PLO Executive Committee member Mohammed Milhelm said yesterday, however, that Seniora and Abu Rahme had been proposed only as "consultants" because "with all due respect to these people, they are still under occupation" and thus subject to possible Israeli coercion.
Milhelm and other PLO officials said the executive committees of the PLO and its largest component, Fatah, met July 4 and set terms for selection of Palestinian members of the joint delegation, saying they would be chosen by the PLO, would acknowledge this publicly, and would have rank comparable to the people with whom they met.
The list of proposed delegates for the meeting between the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy was sent to Washington two weeks ago.
As prospects increase for an Arab summit in Morocco that is likely to emphasize past hard-line Arab positions, Palestinian and some Jordanian officials are talking in take-it-or-leave-it terms about the Murphy meeting.
Speaking of the U.S. criteria for the delegation as reportedly expressed to King Hussein when he visited the United States in May, a senior Jordanian official said, "What they [the Americans] asked for while we were in Washington, they got."