JERUSALEM (Jul. 18)
Israel received and promptly rejected a list of proposed Palestinian members of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian negotiating team.
The list was not published. Premier Shimon Peres said on a late news television interview last night that it was unacceptable to Israel. He said he did not know “if it is acceptable to the United States.” The names were sent to Washington by King Hussein of Jordan and forwarded to Israel after several days of study by the State Department.
Peres said the list, which he received from the American Charge d’ Affaires, Robert Flatten, contained no residents of the West Bank or Gaza Strip. He said he was less surprised by the names on the list than by those omitted. It represents “a bad opening move” in the peace process, the Premier said.
‘A BAD OPENING MOVE’
The list apparently was made up by Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat. Observers here said he deliberately left out Palestinian leaders from the West Bank and Gaza because he did not want to legitimize them as potential future negotiators with Israel.
A second reason why Israel rejected the list is that the men named are members of the Palestine National Council (PNC), often referred to as the Palestinian parliament-in-exile. Israel regards the PNC as an extension of the PLO and membership in it tantamount to membership in the PLO. Washington takes a different view.
The Reagan Administration says it honors the 1975 U.S. commitment not to recognize or negotiate with the PLO. But it is willing to sit down with PNC members not identified with the PLO. Another point of difference with Jerusalem is the Administration’s willingness to enter into “dialogue” with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation without Israel’s participation at the outset.
The U.S. insists its overriding objective is direct negotiations between the joint delegation and Israel. It draws a distinction between “dialogue” and “negotiations.”
ISRAEL DISTURBED BY WASHINGTON’S SCENARIO
But Israel has long been disturbed by Washington’s scenario. Peres said on the television interview that he thought preliminary talks between the U.S. and a Jordanian-Palestinian team “is an unwise move. I don’t see any reason why the U.S. should meet a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation before (peace) negotiations and try to coordinate positions with them.” He said he has made this clear to Secretary of State George Shultz.
Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir who studied the list sent from Washington also rejected preliminary talks. “Peace must be negotiated between the Arabs and Israel,” he said, stressing that Israel would never talk to members of the PNC which is “an inseparable part of the PLO.” Peres, who heads the Labor Party, and Shamir, leader of Likud, the two main components of the national unity coalition government, were said to see eye-to-eye on this issue, despite other differences over the peace process. The two men lunched privately Wednesday and according to their aides are in agreement on basic policy.
Their luncheon meeting followed a three-hour meeting at Peres’ home Tuesday night where he hosted two prominent West Bank Palestinians, Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem, a leading moderate, and Hikmat Al-Masri of Nablus. Both are favorably disposed toward King Hussein and his Hashemite regime which rules Jordan.
There had been speculation here that one or both men would be included on the list of proposed Palestinian negotiators. Apparently, neither was.
According to unconfirmed reports all but one of the names on the list are members of the PNC. The exception, according to an Israel Television report, is a “high profile” official of the PLO.
Richard Murphy, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs was due to visit the region this month for further talks with Jordanian and Israeli officials and non-PLO Palestinians. His trip was postponed pending receipt of the list of Palestinian delegates from Hussein, which was long delayed. His plans now are not known. Reportedly, he will go to Amman later this month.