ROME (Sep. 12)
With “cold contempt,” Israel rejected the Arab summit Mideast plan published in Fez, Morocco. Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir denounced it as “a renewed declaration of war on Israel.” A Foreign Ministry statement, issued here Friday, said “Israel categorically rejects” the proposals and characterized them as “worse than the Fahd plan which has been rejected by Israel in the past.”
That plan, presented in August, 1981 by Crown Prince Fahd — now King Fahd–of Saudi Arabia, called for Arabs to accept “the right of states in the region to live in peace.” The U.S. saw it at the time as an oblique but implicit recognition of Israel.
The Arab summit at Fez, attended by the heads of the 19 Arab League member-states and Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat, called for “the establishment of an independent Palestinian state” on the West Bank and Gaza Strip “with Al Qods (Jerusalem) as its capital.” It also proposed United Nations Security Council “guarantees” of “peace among all states of the region including the independent Palestinian state.”
The Fez plan demanded Israel’s withdrawal from all occupied Arab territory, including East Jerusalem, in effect a return to its pre-1967 borders, and the dismantling of Israeli settlements in those territories. Fez also affirmed the “inalienable national rights” of the Palestinian people “under the leadership of the PLO, its sale and legitimate representative.”
According to the Israeli Foreign Ministry, the Fez proposals contained nothing substantially new or different from the “traditional Arab stance.” They were “worse than the Fahd plan” because they specifically called for a Palestinian state “which constitutes a danger to Israel’s existence and underlines the aim of the plan’s authors: to bring about the liquidation of Israel in stages,” the Foreign Ministry said.
‘GRAPHIC EVIDENCE’ OF NEED FOR NEGOTIATIONS
In Washington, Secretary of State George Shultz said Israel’s rejection of President Reagan’s peace initiative and the “variance” with the President’s plan by the Arab League summit demonstrates the need for negotiations to achieve peace in the Middle East. He told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Friday that the President “stands firmly behind his proposals.”
Shultz observed that “The reactions of the Israeli government and of the Arab League are clear and graphic evidence that the positions of both sides must be negotiated if we are to bring genuine peace to this troubled area.” He said he would have to study the Arab League proposals published in the Fez communique and discuss them with others to see what the proposals actually mean.
According to Shultz, there was some indication that the Arab League gave “implicit” recognition to Israel as, he said, the Fahd plan had done. If this was true, it was a positive step, Shultz said.
He stressed that what was important was, “will someone show up at the negotiating table?” The President’s aim is to “broaden” participation in the Camp David process. “If another Arab country will come to the bargaining table, then the possibility of peace takes fresh reality,” the Secretary of State declared.
A Likud member of the Israeli Cabinet, Minister-Without-Portfolio Yitzhak Modai, said in London that the Arab states need not have convened in Fez if the only outcome was to agree on a Palestinian state headed by the PLO and involving the redivision of Jerusalem.
While agreeing that an Arab statement finally recognizing Israel would be “of great importance,” Modai said that if such statement required Israel’s acceptance of a Palestinian state headed by the PLO and division of Jerusalem, Israel would “waive the two.”
FRANCE WELCOMES FEZ PLAN
In Paris, French officials warmly welcomed the Fez formulations, saying they concurred with France’s own position. They interpreted the Arab summit communique as an implicit recognition of Israel’s existence, lifting one of the last stumbling blocks on the way to a comprehensive resolution of the Middle East conflict.
The officials said the American plan, as outlined by Reagan September I and the Fez decisions would play a central role in President Francois Mitterrand’s discussions with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
MUBARAK’S POINT OF VIEW
Mubarak told reporters in Paris, after meeting Mitterrand yesterday that “My personal point of view is that Fez has set very good goals for solving the problem of the Middle East — mostly the resolutions which have been adopted by the international organizations.” He added, “But Fez lacks the mechanism of how to achieve its goals.”
The Egyptian President explained that the question now was “Who is going to execute all the goals set in Fez and how? All that is mentioned in the Fez statement is what every Arab wants to achieve. The point is how? So I think you could ask the Arab summit what mechanism and how it will work. It is not my business.” Egypt, ousted from the Arab League because of its peace treaty with Israel, was not represented at Fez.
LEBANON DISAPPOINTED BY THE PLAN
Another reaction to the Fez communique came from Foreign Minister Fuad Butros of Lebanon who said in Beirut yesterday that his government was disappointed by the failure of the Arab League summit to endorse in full a Lebanese government working paper for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanese territory.
While the Fez communique ended the five-year mandate of Syria to police Lebanon with its forces and proposed that Beirut and Damascus negotiate the withdrawal of the Syrian army, the Arab League leaders did not mention the continued presence of armed Palestinians in Lebanon.
REACTIONS BY SENATORS
At the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing in Washington, Sen. Rudy Boschwitz (R. Minn.) said he found the Fez communique “negative” and one in which the Arab leaders “adopted the lowest common denominator.” The Committee also continued to discuss the Reagan plan.
Chairman Charles Percy (R. Ill.) and Claiborne Pell (D. R.I.), the ranking Democrat on the Committee, said they could not see how Premier Menachem Begin could have been surprised by the President’s call for a freeze on Jewish settlements.
They noted that former Sen. Jacob Javits of New York, formerly a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee and now a consultant to it, had recommended such a freeze several months ago and discussed it with Begin when the Israeli Premier met with the Committee, last spring.
Sen. Joseph Biden (D. Del.) said it would have been in the United States interest to have discussed the President’s proposals with Begin before taking them to Jordan.
Shultz said that all parties, including members of the Israeli government, have agreed in the past that it was important to bring Jordan into the negotiations. He said the U.S., therefore, discussed the proposals first with Jordan. When King Hussein indicated he considered them “serious,” they were presented simultaneously to Israel and other Arab countries