Peres: Israel’s International Standing Has Increased Greatly During the Last Two Weeks

Israel’s international image and stature has improved considerably during the past two weeks, Premier Shimon Peres told Israel TV last night. He alluded to the favorable response by Western leaders — and also Jordan — to his peace initiative, to the decline of the PLO’s international standing and to the U.S. Senate action postponing until March I the sale of arms to Jordan, as significant signs of Israel’s improved status.

In view of these developments, Peres said he could not understand the reason for Likud’s criticism of his peace plan nor the attitude of Likud Cabinet ministers that there is a crisis in the national unity government as a result of the peace plan. “A very serious change has taken place in the status of Israel,” the Premier told Israel TV. “Israel has gained points, and did not lose one single point.” He indicated that in today’s Knesset debate on his proposals, he would stand firm on his plan for starting peace talks with Jordan.

(The debate lasted late into the night. Full story will be in tomorrow’s Bulletin.)

(Jordan’s response to Peres’ proposals was expected to be discussed by King Hussein of Jordan and PLO chief Yasir Arafat in Amman tonight.)

Referring to Hussein’s generally favorable response to the initiative he unveiled last Monday in his address at the United Nations General Assembly, the Premier said that “a door that was almost totally closed has been opened …. To my mind, there is a new opportunity and room for new dynamics.”

DISMISSES STATEMENT BY JORDANIAN OFFICIAL

Peres dismissed a statement made yesterday by Jordan’s Information Minister Mohammed Al-Khatib that Jordan, “at this particular time … categorically rejects direct talks or any partial or separate settlement with Israel,” and that an international conference “of all parties concerned, including the PLO, plus the permanent members of the UN Security Council” remained “the only way for a peaceful, just and comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian issue.” Peres had called for direct talks with Jordan.

Peres called attention to what he called Hussein’s unprecedented response to his peace initiative, to Hussein’s reevaluation of the role of the PLO in the Mideast peace process, to a statement by United States Ambassador to the UN Vernon Walters that the PLO had taken itself out of the negotiating process, and to French President Francois Mitterrand’s indication that he was reconsidering his attitude toward the PLO.

Peres said that those in the government who continued to insist that there was no evidence that any Arab countries were prepared to negotiate with Israel were setting up a straw man. The developments in the last two weeks, he said, “stand for themselves, and nothing will help” to change that reality. He said that the critics of his peace plan were simply engaging in “a political maneuver.”

“Therefore,” Peres said with regard to the Likud criticism, “I am calm. I am not saying that the process has been completed, but if one compares the overall political picture now with that of two weeks ago, one can notice a substantial change.”

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