JERUSALEM (Feb. 3)
The new flurry of diplomatic activity in the Middle East initiated by the United States has raised tensions and acrimony within Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s Likud bloc.
The premier has come under sharp attack from some Herut hard-liners for allegedly deviating from the party’s longstanding position on autonomy for the administered territories. He also is accused of putting out diplomatic feelers without consulting his colleagues.
The latest such charges arose from Shamir’s dispatch of his close confidant, Cabinet Secretary Elyakim Rubinstein, on a secret mission to Paris.
Rubinstein reportedly arrived there Monday evening. His visit coincided with the presence in the French capital of President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan, both key players in the diplomatic initiative launched by Washington.
In Paris, Hussein was asked by an Israeli correspondent Wednesday if he had received a message from Shamir or one of his aides. The king responded: “No message.”
In Israel, Housing Minister David Levy spoke out strongly Wednesday against secret missions, which he clearly implied were arranged behind his back and those of other Likud ministers. The speculation is that Rubinstein was conveying messages from Shamir to one or both of the Arab leaders in Paris.
The evolving American proposals are understood to call for changes and acceleration of the autonomy plan first formulated in the Camp David accords of 1978. The Americans have referred to “interim arrangements,” intended to come to grips with the current unrest in the administered territories, while preparations are made to negotiate a final settlement.
NO DEVIATION FROM CAMP DAVID
Both Levy, who holds the rank of deputy premier, and Commerce and Industry Minister Ariel Sharon, two of the most powerful voices in Likud’s Herut wing, have warned Shamir they will accept no deviation from the original Camp David formula, as interpreted by the Likud-led government at the time.
Camp David set a five-year deadline for completion of the autonomy plan. The Americans are now talking in terms of weeks and months-From Likud’s standpoint, an early start of negotiations for a settlement of the Israeli-Arab conflict is undesirable.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Haim Corfu, responding in the Knesset to a no-confidence motion Wednesday, said that no U.S. plan has been presented on paper to Israel to date.
But Rubinstein was in Washington last week and apparently was apprised by Reagan administration officials, for the first time, of its new thinking on the Middle East in light of the continuing violence.
Secretary of State George Shultz is sending the administration’s top Middle East troubleshooter, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy, to the region shortly and some Israeli sources predict Shultz will come here himself if there are any signs of progress.
Both Israel and the United States are in election years, a time when governments are not inclined to make far-reaching diplomatic decisions. The disturbances in the territories appear to have galvanized Americans.
The Europeans also appear to be playing a role in the latest diplomatic initiative, providing, at the very least, the venue for the heightened activity.
Italy is currently the scene of diplomatic contacts. Shamir is due there on a visit in a few days. Hussein ended a three-day visit to Rome on Tuesday that included an audience with Pope John Paul II.
Egyptian President Mubarak is expected there following his visits to France and Morocco. The peripatetic “foreign minister” of the Palestine Liberation Organization. Farouk Kaddoumi, arrived in Rome on Wednesday.