TEL AVIV (Nov. 19)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir agreed to a form of international peace conference under the auspices of the United States and the Soviet Union, but the idea was rejected by Jordan and Syria and aborted because of alleged American lethargy, according to reports in Haaretz and Hadashot Thursday.
If the reports are correct, they indicate a significant reversal by Shamir, leader of the Likud bloc, who has opposed the idea of an international conference, strongly advocated by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party.
According to Haaretz, Shamir was prepared to attend the opening of an international conference sponsored by the two superpowers during the summit meeting in Washington Dec. 8-9 between President Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. But he set certain conditions.
These included the start of direct negotiations between Israel and the Arabs on the day the conference opens, immediate dispersal of the conference, a commitment not to intervene in direct negotiations and a Soviet commitment to re-establish diplomatic relations with Israel, Haaretz reported.
INCLUDE ME, SHAMIR SAYS
Another condition was that Shamir himself be invited to represent Israel. Senior Likud sources said that condition was added because Shamir feared Peres would do to him what Ezer Weizman and Moshe Dayan did to Premier Menachem Begin at the Camp David negotiations in 1978 — force a settlement behind Likud’s back.
The late Dayan was foreign minister of Israel at the time and Weizman was defense minister. Both played major roles in the 17 days of talks at Camp David, hosted by President Jimmy Carter, that ended in an agreement between Begin and the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt on peace treaty terms which included the return of Sinai to Egypt.
Many in Begin’s Herut party were opposed, and Shamir himself abstained on the Knesset vote on the Camp David accords.
Hadashot reported that Secretary of State George Shultz raised the latest conference idea during his recent trip to the Middle East. Hussein rejected it pending the Soviet response, and President Hafez Assad of Syria, who received the proposal from the American ambassador in Damascus, turned it down flatly.
Hussein reportedly told the Americans he would not deal with Shamir, but preferred direct negotiations with Peres, in whom he had utmost confidence. Only Shamir agreed at the time to send an official representative to Washington.
Haaretz reported that Hussein has since expressed displeasure with what he called American “idleness” after additional details of the aborted plan were revealed. Ranking members of the Labor Party also accused the Americans of failure to back up the plan or bring it up in discussions with top Soviet leaders.
MUBARAK URGES CONFERENCE
Meanwhile, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt sent a message to Shamir this week-strongly supporting direct negotiations between Israel and the Arabs, but insisting that an international conference was the only way to achieve them, Haaretz reported Thursday.
The Egyptian leader stressed that no outside figure or international institution is capable of forcing a settlement in the region and there can be no substitute for an agreement reached by the sides directly involved in the conflict.
He complained that Israel is the only country with reservations about an international conference and that while he understands Shamir’s fears, he can assure them they can be overcome.
Mubarak warned that perpetuation of the status quo is likely to cause an escalation of violence and would play into the hands of extremists on both sides.