WASHINGTON (Sep. 14)
The Reagan Administration is looking to the visit of Israeli Premier Shimon Peres Monday and Tuesday as a means of using the improvement of relations between Israel and Egypt to move “toward a broader peace in the Middle East.”
Peres arrives here Sunday night, only days after the agreement by Israel and Egypt on the arbitration of their dispute over Taba and the apparently successful summit meeting between Peres and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The Israeli Premier will meet with President Reagan Monday afternoon after he meets with Secretary of State George Shultz in the morning. He also is scheduled to meet with Vice President George Bush on Monday and with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger on Tuesday. He also will meet with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee before leaving for Canada Tuesday night.
The Taba agreement and the Peres-Mubarak summit “prove again that negotiations between Arabs and Israel work and confirm the basic strength of the historic peace treaty between Israel and Egypt,” a senior Administration official told reporters Friday in a briefing on the Peres visit.
STEP-BY-STEP PROCESS FAVORED
Although the official said efforts will now be made to move toward the next step in the peace process, he stressed, “don’t expect any dramatic developments.”
The official said the Administration continues to believe that the way to make progress is “step-by-step, the incremental approach. We think it’s worked.”
The same view was taken by Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who ended his three-day visit here with a meeting with Bush Friday. Rabin said the Taba agreement and Peres-Mubarak summit have “warmed up the cold peace between Egypt and Israel.” He particularly noted that Egypt is returning its Ambassador to Israel, withdrawn in 1982 after Israel’s invasion of Lebanon, and that Cairo has promised to make the “normalization” required by the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty a reality.
Rabin said the improved relations should be a “signal” to other Arab countries. “We can look to the future at least saying that peace between an Arab country and Israel is a real possibility and can be a working experience,” he said.
INVOLVING JORDAN AND PALESTINIANS
Both Rabin and the Administration official agreed with the final communique of the Peres-Mubarak summit that the next step is to get Jordan as well as Palestinian representatives involved in the Mideast peace process.
The U.S. official said that the problem always has been which Palestinians to include in the negotiations. Rabin ruled out the Palestine Liberation Organization.
He said the negotiating process should include Palestinians who reject terrorism and want to live in peace with Israel, especially those who live on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. After all, it is their future that would be decided, he noted. “It might take time,” Rabin said, “It might take six months or two years or three years. We have patience.”
ISSUE OF AN INTERNATIONAL FORUM
Mubarak announced after the summit that a committee will be set up to work out an international conference for the peace process. King Hussein of Jordan has demanded an “international umbrella” for negotiations with Israel.
Rabin said he would not oppose an international forum if it was needed to start the bilateral negotiations. But he again ruled out the participation of the Soviet Union until it resumes diplomatic relations with Israel or allows free emigration for Soviet Jews.
The Administration official said the U.S. also would support an international “framework” as long as it “allows for direct face-to-face negotiations.”
He said the U.S. also opposes Soviet participation unless it changes its policies and attitudes. In the past, the U.S. had demanded that the Soviets resume diplomatic relations with Israel, allow Jews to emigrate, pull out of Afghanistan and stop arming Arab radicals such as Libya if it wants to participate in the Mideast process.
Peres, who has been here three times since becoming Premier in 1984, will be making his last visit before he exchanges positions with Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir next month. The Administration official pointed out that as Premier, Shamir, like Peres, will operate under the national unity agreement between Labor and Likud.
“It is our hope and our expectation things are going to continue as they have,” the official said. He said Israel is “committed” to the peace process and to seeking direct negotiations with a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.
A MAJOR PURPOSE OF RABIN’S VISIT
One of the major purposes of Rabin’s visit was to seek “NATOization” treatment for Israel. This does not mean that Israel wants to join NATO, both Rabin and the Administration official stressed.
“Israel is proud of the fact that we have never asked to have a defense pact with the United States,” Rabin said. “We are proud of the fact that we can defend ourselves without any American GI shedding one drop of his blood for the defense of Israel.”
But Rabin said Israel wants to be able to get the same treatment in purchasing arms as do NATO countries, such as Greece, “in view of the influx of arms by the Soviet Union to countries like Syria, Iraq, Libya and Southern Yemen.”