JERUSALEM (May. 5)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, bitterly divided over the peace process, agreed at a 50-minute private meeting Tuesday to postpone a Cabinet debate over Peres’ proposal for an international conference for Middle East peace to serve as the framework for direct negotiations.
Peres intended to present his plans Wednesday to the Inner Cabinet, the government’s top policymaking body comprising five Labor and five Likud Ministers. He will make his presentation next Monday, instead.
Israel Television reported Tuesday that the U.S. has sent a 19-point position paper to Israel which Labor Party sources said is highly supportive of Peres’ position on negotiations through an international conference. Sources at Premier Shamir’s office confirmed receipt of the document over the weekend but would not comment on its contents.
The television report said the American paper pledged U.S. support for Peres’ conditions for Soviet participation in an international forum. These are a re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Israel and a change of policy toward Soviet Jews and Jewish emigration.
The Americans also reportedly said they would see to it that a conference leads to direct negotiations between the parties and would not be permitted to impose solutions.
Sources here said Tuesday that the delay of Cabinet debate on Peres’ plan might provide an opportunity for Labor and Likud to work out a compromise to preserve their coalition which has governed Israel since 1984. However, it appeared that Peres would postpone his brief to allow for the return from abroad of two members of the Inner Cabinet who he expects to support his position.
Apparently he can count on Ezer Weizman, a Laborite Minister-Without-Portfolio, and possibly on Finance Minister Moshe Nissim, a Likud Liberal. Sources close to Peres believe that Nissim and Housing Minister David Levy would go along with Shamir if, in order to save the unity government from collapse, he agrees to enable Peres to pursue his policies.
That would leave Likud hardliners Ariel Sharon and Moshe Arens in the minority in an Inner Cabinet vote.