JERUSALEM (Feb. 1)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir made it clear at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting that Foreign Minister Shimon Peres’ advocacy of an international conference on Mideast peace does not bind the Likud side of the national unity government. Peres, for his part, made it equally clear that he would not cease this advocacy. And both men indicated that they are not seeking a head-on collision over this issue at this time.
The Cabinet discussion climaxed several days of Labor-Likud tension over the international conference idea, strongly championed by Peres during his recent European trip, and strongly rejected by Shamir and other Likud leaders in public statements implicitly critical of Peres.
Peres, reporting to the Ministers on his trip, maintained that Israel, Egypt and Jordan agree on key points regarding an international conference: that it will not have the power to impose a solution, that it does not replace direct negotiations, and that it will convene only after all parties agree on participants and procedure.
“I am not sure that with such an international forum we can reach peace, but I am pretty sure that without it the peace process will come to an end,” Peres said.
Shamir said Israel would be isolated at such a forum. He questioned whether the Arab side in fact agrees to all the conditions indicated by Peres. He said the Foreign Minister had the right to put out feelers but he had no right to say that without an international forum there could be no peace.
In recent public statements, Shamir has pointed up the U.S. Administration’s unenthusiastic attitude towards an international peace conference. But Peres maintained at the Cabinet discussion that his views were coordinated with Washington.
Rabin said there was only a 20 percent chance of an international conference getting off the ground — but Israel ought to support it as the politic stand to take.