JERUSALEM (Sep. 15)
Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir told reporters Monday that after he becomes Prime Minister next month he will launch new peace initiatives. But he said he remains unalterably opposed to the idea of an international conference for Middle East peace which Premier Shimon Peres agreed to at his summit meeting with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in Alexandria last week.
Shamir, who is also the Foreign Minister, insisted that an international conference could serve neither the cause of peace nor the interests of Israel. Peres, however, has assented to the establishment, with Egypt, of a preparatory committee to consider the nature, composition and timing of an international conference.
But Shamir, leader of Likud, indicated there would be no crisis confrontation between himself and Peres. “Both of us will discuss it again in Jerusalem and I think we will arrive at an agreed conclusion,” he said.
Peres is presently visiting Washington to discuss the peace process among other issues with the Reagan Administration. Shamir, who will be going to the U.S. next week, agreed that the peace process is the most important item and said he too would be discussing it with the Americans.
He said if there are developments in the peace process, “one should take into consideration a peace conference between Israel and her neighbors, but under different conditions than those presented now.”
Shamir cited the Peres-Mubarak summit as proof that there is no substitute for direct negotiations. He maintained that peace could be achieved and the Palestinian problem resolved only after “the Arabs of Eretz Israel relieve themselves of the grip of the PLO.” He said that under no circumstances would he agree to negotiations with Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat, even if the PLO accepted UN Security Council Resolution 242, which implies recognition of Israel.
Shamir will take over as Prime Minister on October 14, under the rotation of power agreement of the Labor-Likud unity coalition. He expressed hope that the unity government would continue with the same policies and structure after the rotation. “We shall overcome any existing differences.” he said.
But there are differences between the two partners more fundamental than the idea of an international conference at some future date. Even Peres sees the latter as simply a framework for direct negotiations between Israel and its Arab adversaries.
However, while Labor seems amenable to some territorial compromises for peace — as in the Camp David process — Likud is fiercely opposed to any concessions, although it upholds Camp David as the only viable framework for peace talks.
Shamir sounded the Likud-Herut line in a speech September 8 to veterans of the pre-State Irgun and Stern groups. He told them, “The national unity government is built on compromise among its components” and would last only “as long as the Arabs do not propose a political settlement that is acceptable to the adherents of territorial compromise.”
He maintained that “everything being proposed to us in what is called the peace process is nothing but a comprehensive and absolute ceding of Judaea and Samaria, the Gaza District, even the Golan Heights and Jerusalem.” Shamir declared that “the unity government has no choice but to give a single answer to these plans — an absolute and clear no.”