JERUSALEM (Feb. 11)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir said Wednesday that when he is in Washington next week, he will do everything he can to dissuade the American Administration and Congress from supporting an international conference for Middle East peace.
Shamir’s remarks, at a briefing for diplomatic reporters, was seen by observers as his second direct rebuke to Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in less than 24 hours on this issue which could provoke a serious coalition crisis, on top of the ongoing bitter dispute between Labor and Likud over the national budget. (See separate story.)
Shamir told the Knesset Tuesday night that Peres’ advocacy of an international peace conference “does not represent the government” and that the Foreign Minister should have made that clear when he addressed foreign countries on the subject. The Labor Party’s Knesset faction promptly blasted Shamir.
He was apparently referring to remarks by Peres in London and Paris last month that Israel would accept an international conference under certain conditions. Peres insisted on his return to Israel that everything he said represented government policy and had the support of the Knesset.
MIGHT PUT PERES ON THE SPOT
Political analysts said Wednesday that if Shamir publicly disputes with Peres during his American trip, the Labor Party leader would be hard put to maintain even the facade of unity that holds the coalition government together.
Shamir said at his briefing that the idea of the international conference was “stupid” from the standpoint of Israel’s interests. He called it an “Arab-Soviet idea” which, if implemented, would result in Israel’s total isolation.
The participants in an international conference would be the parties directly concerned and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council which include the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China, neither of which has diplomatic relations with Israel.
Peres made clear that Israel would agree to Soviet participation only if Moscow moved to restore diplomatic relations with Israel and allowed Soviet Jews freedom to emigrate. He also said Israel would agree to Palestinian representatives as part of a Jordanian delegation only if they had no ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Another condition set by Peres was that the international conference could serve only as a framework for direct negotiations between Israel and its Arab adversaries and could not impose a solution to the Middle East conflict.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LIKUD AND LABOR
Shamir, for his part, is convinced that the Soviet Union, The People’s Republic of China, France or another permanent member of the Security Council would demand Israel’s return to its 1967 borders. He has said even the U.S. might go along with such a demand, supporting only minor border changes. In that case, he warned, Israel would be totally isolated.
But the Labor Party’s view is that an international conference is the only means to bring Jordan to the negotiating table. King Hussein has made clear on many occasions that he could not safely negotiate with Israel outside such a framework.