US embassy cable - 87ALGIERS2184

ALGERIA AND THE PLO

Identifier: 87ALGIERS2184
Wikileaks: View 87ALGIERS2184 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Algiers
Created: 1987-04-11 16:29:00
Classification: CONFIDENTIAL
Tags: KPAL PREL KPRP PLO AG
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
P 111629Z APR 87
FM AMEMBASSY ALGIERS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7300
INFO ARAB LEAGUE COLLECTIVE
AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
AMCONSUL JERUSALEM
AMEMBASSY PARIS
AMEMBASSY LONDON
USCINCEUR VAIHINGEN GE
USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 04 ALGIERS 02184 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:OADR 
TAGS:  KPAL, PREL, KPRP, PLO, AG 
SUBJECT:  ALGERIA AND THE PLO 
 
REF:  KPRP 28 
 
1.  CONFIDENTIAL - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  ALGERIA HAS LONG BEEN AN ACTIVE-- 
IF DISTANT--PARTICIPANT IN MIDDLE EAST DIPLOMACY. 
ENGAGEMENT ARISES FROM ALGERIA'S SELF-PERCEPTION 
AS ROLE MODEL FOR ALL NATIONAL LIBERATION STRUGGLES 
AND FROM STRONG EMOTIONAL INVOLVEMENT IN THE 
ARAB/ISLAMIC CAUSE.  POINT OF ENGAGEMENT HAS BEEN 
THE PALESTINE LIBERATION ORGANIZATION, AND ALGERIA 
HAS CONSISTENTLY TRIED TO IMPART THE "LESSONS 
LEARNED" FROM ITS OWN STRUGGLE AGAINST COLONIALISM, 
URGING "UNITY" ON THE PALESTINIANS FIRST AND 
FOREMOST. 
 
3.  THE PLO HAS BEEN A SLOW LEARNER.  PALESTINIANS 
HAVE TRIED MIGHTILY TO IMPOSE "UNITY," BUT HAVE 
LACKED THE RESOURCES AND REACH THAT THE FLN HAD 
IN ITS WAR AGAINST FRANCE.  ALGERIA, NONETHELESS, 
HAS BEEN AN IMPORTANT ALLY FOR THE PLO, AND THE 
PALESTINIANS HAVE DERIVED BENEFIT FROM THE GOA'S 
WIDELY VALUED DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS.  ALGIERS HAS ALSO 
SERVED AS A USEFUL VENUE FOR A NUMBER OF PLO ACTI- 
VITIES, MAINLY TRAINING AND LARGE CONGRESSES--SUCH 
AS THE PNC SLATED FOR APRIL 20. 
 
4.  ALGERIA, FOR ITS PART, HAS COMPLETED A LONG 
JOURNEY FROM THE REJECTIONIST/STEADFASTNESS FRONT 
APPROACH TO THE MIDDLE EAST DISPUTE, BUT IT STILL 
VIEWS THE CAMP DAVID APPROACH AS A SELLOUT OF 
ESSENTIAL PALESTINIAN INTERESTS.  BUT, WHILE 
CHAMPIONING THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE, ALGERIA HAS 
LEFT UNCLEAR WHAT IT THINKS THE VIABLE SOLUTION 
TO THE ARAB-ISRAEL DISPUTE COULD BE.  THE GOA REJECTS 
"TERROR" AS A TACTIC, BUT STILL REGARDS  ACTS OF 
VIOLENCE "IN THE TERRITORY TO BE LIBERATED" AS 
ACCEPTABLE.  END SUMMARY. 
 
-------------------- 
TO PNC OR NOT TO PNC 
-------------------- 
 
5.  ALGERIA IS PLANNING TO HOST THE PALESTINE 
NATIONAL CONGRESS ON APRIL 20 AFTER A PREPARATORY 
MEETING STARTING APRIL 13.  THESE MEETINGS ARE THE 
RESULT OF MORE THAN TWO YEARS OF INTRICATE, CONFUSING, 
AND OFTEN FRUSTRATING DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS AND PRO- 
TRACTED NEGOTIATIONS WITH NUMEROUS PALESTINIAN FACTIONS 
AND OTHER ARAB STATES.  WHILE ALGERIA WILL BE PLEASED 
IF THERE IS A SUCCESSFUL PNC, THE LONG-TERM GOAL 
REMAINS PUTTING TOGETHER A MORE LASTING UNITY THAT 
WILL ALLOW THE PLO TO PARTICIPATE COHESIVELY IN AN 
ARAB SUMMIT, AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE 
MIDDLE EAST, AND EVENTUAL NEGOTIATIONS WITH ISRAEL. 
ALGERIA'S DIPLOMATIC EFFORTS HAVE SOUGHT TO COMPOSE 
INTERNAL PALESTINIAN DIFFERENCES, INDUCE SYRIA TO 
PUT ASIDE ITS PAROCHIAL OBJECTIVES AND DISLIKE FOR 
YASSIR ARAFAT, AND SOLICIT SOVIET SUPPORT FOR UNITY 
UNDER ARAFAT.  AT THE SAME TIME, ALGERIA HAS ALSO 
BEEN CAREFUL TO HOLD OUT A GLIMMER OF HOPE THAT 
EGYPT CAN REJOIN THE ARAB COMMUNITY WITHOUT 
ABANDONMENT OF ITS ESSENTIAL INTERESTS.  WITH THESE 
FACTORS TO DEAL WITH, IT WILL BE NO SMALL FEAT IF 
THE PNC ACTUALLY CONVENES APRIL 20. 
 
--------------- 
HISTORY LESSONS 
--------------- 
 
6.  THE ALGERIANS CONSIDER THEIR WARTIME EXPERIENCE 
A MODEL FOR LIBERATION MOVEMENTS AND FOR THE PLO 
IN PARTICULAR.  FOR THE ALGERIANS, MAINTAINING 
REVOLUTIONARY UNITY UNDER THE FLN UMBRELLA PREVENTED 
BOTH THE FRENCH AND OTHER ARAB STATES FROM EXPLOITING 
PUBLIC CLEAVAGES TO THEIR ADVANTAGE.  ONCE THE ALGERIANS 
MADE IT CLEAR THAT FRANCE COULD HOLD ON NO LONGER IN 
NORTH AFRICA, THE FLN ATTAINED VIRTUALLY ALL OF ITS 
OBJECTIVES.  IN URGING THESE LESSONS ON THE PALESTINIANS, 
HOWEVER, THE ALGERIANS OVERLOOK ONE KEY FACTOR:  THEIR 
UNITY WAS THE RESULT OF RUTHLESS LIQUIDATION OF ANY 
ELEMENT THOUGHT RECALCITRANT OR INCONVENIENT, FROM 
HARKIS WHO FOUGHT WITH FRANCE TO COMMUNISTS WHO JOINED 
THE STRUGGLE FOR ANTI-NATIONALIST GOALS.  TRY AS THEY 
MIGHT, THE PALESTINIANS HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO ACHIEVE 
UNITY ON THIS BASIS. 
 
7.  IN DEALING WITH THE PLO, THE ALGERIANS HAVE 
TRIED--WITH VARYING SUCCESS--TO CONVEY A FOUR-PART 
MESSAGE TO THEIR PALESTINIAN FRIENDS: 
 
A)  ALGERIA IS UNIQUELY QUALIFIED TO ADVISE MOVEMENTS 
    ENGAGED IN "NATIONAL LIBERATION" STRUGGLES. 
 
B)  A KEY ELEMENT OF SUCCESS IS CONCEALING INTERNAL 
    DISPUTES BEHIND A FACADE OF UNITY. 
 
C)  NO OUTSIDE POWER CAN BE ALLOWED TO DICTATE GOALS, 
    LEADERSHIP, AND STRATEGY.  THE PALESTINIANS, IN 
    CONTRAST TO THE FLN, HAVE SPLINTERED INTO FACTIONS 
    IDENTIFIED CLOSELY WITH ARAB STATES THAT HAVE 
    SACRIFICED PALESTINIAN INTERESTS FOR THE SAKE 
    OF THEIR OWN PAROCHIAL OBJECTIVES. 
 
D)  ALGERIA HAS MAINTAINED CONTACT WITH ALL PALESTINIAN 
    GROUPS FROM THE MAIN-LINE FATAH TO THE EXTREME 
    ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION AND HAS INSISTED THAT 
    UNIFICATION OF ALL FACTIONS, WHATEVER THEIR 
    IDEOLOGY, IS THE ONLY WAY TO ADVANCE THE 
    PALESTINIAN CAUSE. 
 
------------------------------- 
MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC SUPPORT 
------------------------------- 
 
8.  IN ADDITION TO LESSONS ON HOW TO ORGANIZE A 
REVOLUTIONARY WAR, ALGERIA HAS FURNISHED THE PLO 
MORE TANGIBLE MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC SUPPORT. 
AS OF LATE MARCH 1987, ABOUT 600 PALESTINIAN COMBATANTS 
WERE LOCATED WITH THE ALGERIAN MILITARY AT EL-BAYADH, 
A REMOTE SITE ABOUT 600 KILOMETERS SOUTHWEST OF THE 
CAPITAL.  THESE COMBATANTS, WHO ARE REPORTEDLY UNHAPPY 
WITH THEIR LOT IN THE REMOTE DESERT LOCATION, HAD 
MOVED TO EL-BAYADH IN LATE 1986 FROM A CAMP AT 
TEBESSA, NEAR THE TUNISIA FRONTIER. 
 
9.  ALGERIA ALSO HOSTS AN OFFICIAL PLO EMBASSY, LED 
BY AN ARAFAT SUPPORTER, AND SMALL LIAISON OFFICES 
FOR SOME OF THE PLO FACTIONS.  ON THE POLITICAL LEVEL, 
THE ALGERIANS HAVE, SINCE THE DEATH OF THE FOREIGN 
MINISTER BENYAHIA IN 1982, DEALT PUBLICLY WITH THE 
PLO THROUGH THE APPARATUS OF THE RULING PARTY (FLN). 
THE PLO WORKS WITH THE ALGERIAN FOREIGN MINISTRY ON 
ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS, WITH THE MINISTRY OF DEFENSE 
ON MILITARY TRAINING, AND WITH THE FLN ON MATTERS 
OF POLICY.  THE MAIN FIGURES WITHIN THE FLN WHO DEAL 
WITH ALGERIAN-PLO RELATIONS ARE MOHAMMED CHERIF 
MESSAADIA, HEAD OF THE PERMANENT SECRETARIAT OF THE 
FLN CENTRAL COMMITTEE, AND HIS CLOSE ASSOCIATE, SADEK 
ZOUATEN, CHAIRMAN OF THE PARTY COUNCIL OF FRIENDSHIP 
WITH PEOPLES. 
 
------------------------- 
CATCHING FLIES WITH HONEY 
------------------------- 
 
10.  ZOUATEN AND MESSAADIA TAKE CARE OF VISITING 
PALESTINIAN DELEGATIONS, BUT PRESIDENT BENDJEDID 
ALSO ENGAGES HIMSELF PERSONALLY, RECEIVING MOST 
PALESTINIAN DELEGATIONS, AND HIS POSITION AS FLN 
SECRETARY-GENERAL ALLOWS THE ALGERIANS TO PRESERVE 
THE FORMS OF PARTY-TO-PARTY RELATIONS.  THE ALGERIANS 
CAREFULLY BALANCE THEIR PROTOCOL TREATMENT OF THE 
VARIOUS GROUPS, ENSURING THAT NONE IS SEEN AS FAVORED. 
WHEN GEORGE HABBASH AND THE PFLP, FOR EXAMPLE, ARE 
AT THEIR MOST INTRANSIGENT ON THEIR CONDITIONS FOR 
ATTENDING ANY REUNIFICATION CONFERENCE, THE ALGERIANS 
BECOME EVEN WARMER AND MORE WELCOMING IN THEIR PUBLIC 
TREATMENT OF HABBASH, SEEKING TO WIN HIM OVER TO WHAT 
IS THE ESSENTIALLY PRO-FATAH VIEW OF THE GOA. 
 
11.  WHILE AVOIDING A PUBLIC BREAK WITH ANY PLO 
FACTION, THE ALGERIANS HAVE ALSO APPLIED DISCREET 
PRESSURE ON ALL GROUPS TO PUT REUNIFICATION ABOVE 
PERSONAL AND FACTIONAL INTERESTS.  PART OF THIS 
PRESSURE IS TO INSTILL AND EXPLOIT A SENSE OF SHAME 
AND PERSONAL OBLIGATION.  BENDJEDID HAS STAKED 
CONSIDERABLE POLITICAL CAPITAL ON HIS REUNIFICATION 
INITIATIVE, AND NO PALESTINIAN GROUP WANTS OPENLY 
TO DEFY THE PRESIDENT'S CALLS FOR UNITY AND BEAR 
THE BLAME FOR THE FAILURE OF HIS EFFORTS. 
 
12.  THE ALGERIANS HAVE ALSO TRIED TO PRESSURE SPECIFIC 
INDIVIDUALS WHO THEY BELIEVE ARE OBSTRUCTING UNITY 
EFFORTS.  IN FEBRUARY 1987, FOR EXAMPLE, THE ALGERIANS 
APPARENTLY GAVE ARAFAT COLD TREATMENT FOR OPPOSING A 
UNITY PLATFORM DURING AN ALGIERS PALESTINIAN WRITERS 
AND JOURNALISTS CONFERENCE.  IN ORDER TO BRING GEORGE 
HABBASH AND THE PFLP INTO THE UNIFICATION TALKS, 
ALGERIA HAS TRIED TO USE WHAT INFLUENCE IT HAS ON 
THAT FACTION'S SYRIAN BACKERS.  WITH THIS GOAL IN 
MIND, ALGERIA HAS TAKEN A NOTABLY PRO-SYRIAN PUBLIC 
STAND SINCE BENDJEDID'S JANUARY 23 VISIT TO DAMASCUS 
AND SINCE THE KUWAIT ISLAMIC CONFERENCE SUMMIT.  IN 
SO DOING, ALGIERS HAS HAD TO SWALLOW HARD AND MAINTAIN 
PUBLIC SILENCE OVER SYRIA'S SUPPORT FOR THE AMAL 
MILITIA IN THE LEBANON CAMPS WAR. 
 
--------------------------------- 
TERRORISM VS. NATIONAL LIBERATION 
--------------------------------- 
 
13.  ALGERIA RECOGNIZES THE TERRIBLE DAMAGE THAT 
TERRORISM DOES TO THE PALESTINIAN CAUSE WITH WESTERN 
PUBLIC OPINION.  YET, DRAWING FROM THEIR OWN STRUGGLE 
AGAINST THE FRENCH, THE ALGERIANS FIRMLY BELIEVE THAT 
USE OF VIOLENCE IS A LEGITIMATE TACTIC AGAINST A 
COLONIZER WHO SHOWS NO SIGN OF GIVING IN TO THE DEMANDS 
OF A "COLONIZED PEOPLE."  ALGERIANS FEEL THE DILEMMA 
ACUTELY--BOTH ON A PHILOSOPHICAL AND A TACTICAL LEVEL-- 
AND HAVE COME UP WITH A LINE OF ARGUMENT THAT CONDEMNS 
TERRORISM, BUT ACCEPTS THE MORAL AND TACTICAL VALIDITY 
OF ACTS OF VIOLENCE ON THE TERRITORY TO BE LIBERATED. 
THIS ALLOWS THE GOA TO BE CRITICAL OF TOTALLY REPRE- 
HENSIBLE ACTIONS LIKE RANDOM ATTACKS AT EUROPEAN 
AIRPORTS ON INNOCENT PASSENGERS AND THE ACHILLE LAURO 
AFFAIR, BUT PRESUMABLY LEAVES A DOOR OPEN TO ATTACKS 
ON ISRAEL DIRECTLY.  FOR FEAR OF TYING THEMSELVES 
DOWN OR PREJUDGING ISSUES ON WHICH THE PALESTINIANS 
CANNOT THEMSELVES AGREE, THE ALGERIANS ARE PURPOSE- 
FULLY VAGUE ABOUT WHAT TERRITORY IS TO BE LIBERATED-- 
THE WEST BANK AND GAZA OR ISRAEL ITSELF. 
 
14.  BEYOND THE PHILOSOPHICAL ISSUE, THE ALGERIANS 
FACE MORE PRACTICAL DILEMMAS IN HOW TO DEAL WITH THE 
PALESTINIAN ORGANIZATIONS THAT ENGAGE IN TERRORISM. 
THE ACHILLE LAURO DISASTER WAS EASY TO CRITICIZE, 
BUT THEY STILL CONSIDER ABU ABBAS AN IMPORTANT PALES- 
TINIAN LEADER WHO MUST BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT IN UNITY 
GFFORTS.  THEY CONSIDER ABU NIDAL BEYOND THE PALE, 
A JUDGMENT MADE EASIER BY THE FATAH DEATH SENTENCE 
AGAINST HIM, BUT THE GOA NONETHELESS IS NOT OVERTLY 
HOSTILE TO ABU NIDAL AND PERMITS AT LEAST TWO PALES- 
TINIAN STUDENTS LOYAL TO HIM TO LIVE IN ALGIERS. 
 
15.  WHATEVER THE GOA'S VIEWS ON THE UTILITY OF 
TERRORISM, ALGERIA'S BROAD POLICY OF KEEPING DOORS 
OPEN TO EVERY CONCEIVABLE "NATIONAL LIBERATION" 
MOVEMENT OVERRIDES MOST OTHER CONSIDERATIONS.  THE 
GOA SEES ITSELF AS THE WORLD'S MIDDLEMAN AND RECOG- 
NIZES THAT TO DEAL WITH ALL PARTIES TO DISPUTES, IT 
MUST BE ON SPEAKING TERMS WITH THEM.  AT A TIME WHEN 
NO OTHER COUNTRY COULD HAVE ACHIEVED WHAT ALGERIA 
HAS WITH THE PLO UNITY EFFORT THUS FAR, AN ARGUMENT 
CAN BE MADE IN FAVOR OF THAT OPENNESS. 
 
------------------------------------- 
WILL THE REAL ALGERIA PLEASE STAND UP 
------------------------------------- 
 
16.  ALGERIA HAS COME A LONG WAY FROM THE DAYS IT 
FORMED THE REJECTIONIST/STEADFASTNESS FRONT WITH THE 
LIKES OF SYRIA, SOUTH YEMEN, AND LIBYA.  WHILE ITS 
VIEWS ON THE ARAB-ISRAEL DISPUTE HAVE CHANGED 
RADICALLY AND ITS WILLINGNESS TO HAVE ITS NAME 
ASSOCIATED WITH THE TRUE HARDLINERS IS NON-EXISTENT, 
THE GOA HAS BECOME VAGUE ON HOW IT THINKS PEACE CAN 
BE FOUND IN THE MIDDLE EAST.  THE CAMP DAVID ACCORDS 
AND GESTURES LIKE HASSAN'S MEETINB WITH PERES AT 
IFRANE ARE STILL ROUNDLY CRITICIZED IN THE ALGERIAN 
PRESS.  YET, THE ALGERIANS WENT OUT OF THEIR WAY 
NOT TO CRITICIZE THE HUSSEIN/ARAFAT ACCORDS WHEN 
THEY SHOWED PROMISE OF WORKING, AND THEY HAVE MADE 
SOME OVERTURES TO EGYPT, INDICATING THAT THE EGYPTIANS 
CAN EVENTUALLY MAKE THEIR WAY BACK INTO THE ARAB 
COMMUNITY ON THEIR OWN TERMS. 
 
17.  SO FAR THE ALGERIANS HAVE CAREFULLY AVOIDED 
INVOLVEMENT IN DETAILS OF THE COMPLEX NEGOTIATIONS 
LEADING TO THE PNC MEETING.  WHATEVER THEIR PRIVATE 
FEELINGS ABOUT SPECIFIC ISSUES, THEY HAVE TAKEN NO 
PUBLIC STAND ON THE ABROGATION OF THE AMMAN ACCORD, 
ON PLO TIES WITH EGYPT, ON THE ORGANIZATION OF PLO 
LEADERSHIP, OR ON OTHER DIVISIVE QUESTIONS.  DRAWING 
ON THEIR OWN REVOLUTIONARY EXPERIENCE, THE ALGERIANS 
HAVE SAID ONLY THAT THE PALESTINIANS THEMSELVES MUST 
DECIDE THESE QUESTIONS WITHOUT OUTSIDE INTERFERENCE 
AND THAT PERSONALITIES, EVEN YASIR ARAFAT'S, SHOULD 
NOT BECOME AN ISSUE THAT OBSCURES REVOLUTIONARY GOALS. 
 
--------- 
PROSPECTS 
--------- 
 
18.  THE SHORT-TERM PROSPECTS FOR ALGERIA AND THE PLO 
RAISE A NUMBER OF QUESTIONS: 
 
A)  CAN ALGERIA HOST A PNC MEETING IN APRIL AS PLANNED 
    DESPITE FACTIONAL DISPUTES AMONG THE PALESTINIANS? 
 
B)  IF SO, WILL THE PNC INCLUDE ALL FACTIONS OR WILL 
    IT BE A RUMP SESSION WITHOUT PFLP AND OTHER 
    PRO-SYRIAN PARTICIPATION?  FOR THE ALGERIANS, 
    THE LATTER WOULD REPRESENT ALMOST AS SERIOUS A 
    DIPLOMATIC SETBACK AS A COMPLETE BREAKDOWN OF 
    THE MEETING. 
 
C)  WILL THE PNC MEETING ACHIEVE SOME SORT OF UNITY 
    OR WILL IT BE ANOTHER FORUM FOR COMPETING GROUPS 
    AND PERSONALITIES TO AIR THEIR DISPUTES IN PUBLIC? 
 
D)  GIVEN THE COMPETING INFLUENCES AT WORK AMONG THE 
    PALESTINIANS, WHAT WILL BE THE LIFE SPAN OF ANY 
    AGREEMENT REACHED AT THE NEXT PNC? 
 
19.  WHILE ALGERIA RETAINS ITS SHORT-TERM OBJECTIVE 
OF BRINGING ALL PALESTINIAN FACTIONS TO ALGIERS IN 
LATE APRIL, ITS LONG-TERM GOAL REMAINS RESTORING A 
PLO THAT CAN PRESENT A FACADE OF UNITY, SPEAK WITH 
ONE VOICE ABOUT THE PRINCIPLES OF PALESTINIAN 
NATIONALISM, AND ATTEND AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE 
AS A COHESIVE GROUP.  AT THE SAME TIME, ALGERIA 
WILL TRY TO MAINTAIN ITS POSITION AS MEDIATOR AND 
DISINTERESTED FRIEND AND TEACHER TO ALL PALESTINIAN 
FACTIONS--A TEACHER WHOSE PRESTIGE AND EXPERIENCE 
SHOULD GUIDE RELUCTANT AND REBELLIOUS STUDENTS ON 
THE CORRECT REVOLUTIONARY PATH.  IF ONLY THEY WOULD 
LISTEN. 
 
 
JOHNSTONE 

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