JERUSALEM (Sep. 30)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir said Tuesday that he will be “very happy” to welcome Secretary of State George Shultz when he comes to Israel next month but made clear that nothing will alter his adamant opposition to an international conference for Middle East peace.
Shamir said he had “not heard” anything from the U.S. State Department to indicate that Shultz is coming here to discuss prospects for an international conference. “No doubt all the various possibilities will be discussed,” he told reporters during a visit to tourism facilities near the Sea of Galilee. But, he added, Shultz “is not coming here to argue. He knows my views… The State Department people know my position. They certainly aren’t coming here to argue.”
The Prime Minister said he was “always ready to hear all views” but his opposition to an international conference, strongly advocated by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, “was long held and not temporary.”
Shultz is due in Israel on October 16, before he goes to Moscow for arms control talks. State Department spokesman Charles Redman announced his trip at the United Nations Monday.
Shultz’s visit to the region has raised speculation among observers here and abroad as to what the Secretary of State hopes to accomplish. Shultz has said repeatedly over the last four years that he would not return to the Middle East unless there was concrete progress in the peace process.
At the moment, the process is stalemated, with the Israeli government sharply divided over an international conference. King Hussein of Jordan refuses to move without the conference umbrella. There is no agreement on the nature of Palestinian representation at peace negotiations and even those parties advocating such a forum have differing ideas on how it should be set up and what authority if any it should have in formulating peace agreements between the Israelis and Arabs.
Shamir said he did not believe Shultz coordinated his plans with Peres who is presently in New York for the United Nations General Assembly’s 42nd session. Peres has met twice with Shultz but Shamir said he was certain they did not make any arrangements behind his back. “This (the Mideast visit) is Shultz’s own initiative,” the Premier said.
Nevertheless, observers here see Shultz’s personal re-engagement in Mideast diplomacy after a long lapse as a diplomatic and political success for Peres. The latter had been urging Shultz to come to the region to promote the peace conference scenario. But until now he preferred to stay away. He dropped tentative plans to tour the region last June.