JERUSALEM — A small group of Palestinians, carefully selected by the U.S. government for their moderate views, refused to meet with Secretary of State George P. Shultz on Sunday, a snub that Shultz blamed on intimidation by "enemies of peace" in the Palestine Liberation Organization.
"I think they have missed something by not taking part in an invitation to a dialogue," Shultz told a press conference. "As I understand it, a number of them were threatened. That only reminds us that peace has enemies."
Earlier in the day, in remarks interpreted as a rebuke to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Shultz warned that "no one helps the chances for peace by doing nothing."
Time on Israel's Side?
Shamir, who opposes suggestions for an international peace conference on the Middle East, is known to believe that time is on Israel's side, so the Jerusalem government can afford to wait for its Arab neighbors to meet its conditions for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
"Each day must bring a commitment to seize opportunities which present themselves," Shultz said after receiving an honorary degree from the Weizmann Institute of Science near Tel Aviv. "We know that no one--not the United States, not Israel, not the Arabs--improves the chances for peace by doing nothing at all."
At his press conference later in the day, Shultz was asked specifically if he had directed his remarks at Shamir. The secretary of state diplomatically responded, "I was just exhorting myself and everyone else to keep working at it."
Tailored to Shamir
Nevertheless, the comments seemed to be a tailored response to Shamir, who has told associates that the current Arab-Israeli conflict should be read in terms of millenniums of Jewish history. In the long view, he has said, things are improving steadily, so this is no time for Israel to make concessions.
During his visit to Israel which began Friday, Shultz met separately with Shamir and his chief political rival, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, to discuss ways of reviving the stalled peace process. Peres maintains that Israel should be willing to attend an international conference to set the stage for direct negotiations with Jordan while Shamir opposes that plan.
King Hussein of Jordan has said that he will negotiate with Israel only in the context of such a conference. Shultz flies to London today to confer with Hussein.
Asked if he had made any progress in his talks in Israel, Shultz said, "I can't point to any particular thing and say we've gone from here to there."
Heaps Scorn on PLO
Shultz heaped scorn on the PLO and the Palestinians who first accepted, then one-by-one rejected, his invitation to talks in his suite in the Jerusalem Hilton Hotel.
"The Palestinians keep saying they want representation, they want to be heard, they want their point of view listened to, that they have ideas, that they have an important role, and of course I agree with all that," Shultz said. "So, I came here, and I have been listening to various people, and I thought it would be worthwhile to listen to them so they could tell me what their views are.
"It is sort of contradictory for them to say that they want to be heard but then when they are offered a chance, not to take advantage of it," he said.
A Palestinian journalist who often mirrors the views of the PLO, which is outlawed in Israel and the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River and Gaza Strip, said the Palestinians refused to meet Shultz because they have no mandate to negotiate and because Shultz "only wanted to talk.
'He Should Talk to PLO'
"If he wants to talk, he should talk to the PLO," the Palestinian said. The United States refuses to have any dealings with the PLO.
A senior U.S. official said that "nine or 10" Arabs were invited to the meeting. Only six have been publicly identified, all of them moderates with generally pro-American views.
Palestinian sources were quoted by Israeli newspapers as saying the invitees would send Shultz a note rejecting the invitation because of the State Department's order closing the PLO office in Washington. But the senior U.S. official said no such note was received. Instead, he said, the Palestinians called the Shultz party individually to say that they would not attend. He said some of them complained of intimidation by PLO operatives.
Shultz did not mention the PLO by name, but he left little doubt that he was talking about the organization when he denounced "the enemies of peace."
"The enemies of peace and purveyors of violence, what have they achieved for the Palestinian people? Nothing," Shultz said. "You can achieve more by dialogue, by constructive work. . . . I just hope the enemies of peace will have second thoughts and that they will find themselves increasingly in the minority. They are part of the problem that prevents the people they allegedly represent from expressing their views."
In answer to a question from an Arab journalist, Shultz conceded that there were "problems" in Israel's treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. But he said there had also been "advances" in human rights on the West Bank.