Saunders Says U.S. May Give Own Ideas for Mideast Feace

Harold Saunders, the newly appointed Assistant Secretary of State for Near. Eastern and South Asian Affairs, told a House panel this week that “it is not inconceivable” that the United States “will put forward ideas of our own” if Israel’s response to questions posed by the Administration on the future of the occupied Arab territories do not lead to a resumption of the negotiating process.

Saunders appeared before the subcommittee on Europe and the Middle East of the House International Relations Committee Monday to present the “annual review of U.S. policy in the Middle East.” He stressed that “Our role in this process is not simply as postman between the two sides. At decisive points in the negotiations, where we see it helpful to move things forward, we have in the past given our own ideas and we will continue to do so in consultation with the parties.”

(Meanwhile, in Israel, government sources reacted bitterly to Sounders’ testimony. They said his remarks were not coincidental, implying that he was trying to exert pressure on Israel. Sounders also repeated the U.S. view that the present Israeli government must not renege on the previous government’s acceptance of the principle of territorial withdrawal on all fronts as stated in Security Council Resolution 242. The Likud-led government insists that 242 does not apply to the West Bank and Gaza Strip.)

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