TEL AVIV (Feb. 29)
Secretary of State George Shultz returned to Jerusalem Monday evening after a brief visit to Amman, Jordan, ending his current round of shuttle diplomacy on an inconclusive note.
He leaves Tuesday morning for London to meet with King Hussein of Jordan, who has been abroad while Shultz was visiting Israel and Arab capitals. That meeting, according to diplomatic observers, may determine the fate of the new American peace plan in which Jordanian cooperation is a key factor.
A news conference Shultz had planned to hold in Jerusalem Monday evening appears to have been canceled, indicating the secretary of state has nothing concrete to report at this stage.
American officials could not confirm reports that Shultz plans to return to the region to resume his shuttle efforts after meeting with Hussein and seeing President Reagan Wednesday in Brussels, where Reagan is attending a meeting of America’s NATO allies.
Officials and journalists who accompanied Shultz on his trips to Arab capitals over the weekend reported Monday that Arab attitudes have hardened toward an Israeli-Palestinian settlement because of the continuing unrest in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Since he arrived in Israel on Thursday, Shultz has visited Damascus, made two trips to Amman and conferred in Cairo with President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.
Each evening he returned to Jerusalem and gave separate briefings to Premier Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the Likud faction, and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the Labor Party leader, who remain at loggerheads over the American initiative and the peace process in general.
Shultz met with Shamir for an hour after his second trip to Amman and later called on Peres at his home. When Shultz flies to London on Tuesday, Richard Murphy, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, will go to Damascus to brief Syrian President Hafez Assad on the latest developments.
BASED ON PERES-HUSSEIN PACT
Shultz is trying to wrap up a Middle East peace package along the lines said to have been agreed to in principle by King Hussein and Peres at their once-secret meeting in London last April.
The keystone is an international conference, which Hussein insists upon as a prerequisite for negotiations with Israel and which Peres and his Labor Party support, though not necessarily in the form envisaged by the Jordanian ruler.
But Shultz must determine first whether Hussein has since backtracked from the whole idea, as the latest rumors have it. He must also deal with Shamir and his Likud faction, whose position against an international conference seems to have hardened since Shultz arrived here.
Shultz met privately with Shamir on his return from Cairo Sunday evening and was to meet with him again Monday evening. He conferred with Peres before leaving for Amman on Monday morning and reportedly told the foreign minister that he has a “package” in place that is an all-or-nothing proposition.
Its several components cannot be split up, the secretary of state reportedly said. These are an international “opening,” discussion of interim arrangements — or autonomy — for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and negotiations for a permanent settlement.
MUBARAK SUPPORTS PLAN
According to Shultz, Mubarak supports this package, Peres told reporters later that Shultz’s mission has reached the stage where all of the questions have been asked and now the replies must be forthcoming.
American officials indicated that Shultz remains confident he can come up with a formula that will narrow the differences between Shamir and Hussein with respect to interim measures in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that could be taken before negotiations on the “final status” of the territories.
Shultz has been very careful to avoid phrases such as “territorial compromise” or “land for peace,” which are anathema to Likud. Instead, he has been stressing United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which was the basis for the 1978 Camp David accords that Shamir now supports.
Peres has pointed out that Resolution 242 does in fact call for territorial compromise, though it uses the term “withdrawal from territories,” coupled with security for Israel, which is open to various interpretations.
Meanwhile, the rift between Labor and Likud seems to be widening. Labor ministers believe Shamir will try to derail Shultz’s plan by making proposals of his own clearly unacceptable to the Arabs or by putting the whole process on hold by having early elections.
STEPS TOWARD EARLY ELECTIONS
Although Peres told Labor Party ministers Sunday he would block attempts by Shamir to forestall the American initiative by calls for early elections, both parties have taken initial steps in that direction.
Likud Knesset member David Magen has prepared a private members bill calling for elections to be held July 26, a time Likud hopes many Labor voters will be abroad on their summer vacations.
The Labor Knesset faction reacted by allowing one of its members, Haim Ramon, to draft a bill for elections as early as May. Neither the Labor nor Likud bills will be formally introduced without authorization by their respective party leaderships.
Rafi Edri, chairman of the Labor Knesset faction, told reporters Monday that the need for early elections arose because Shamir’s objections to the American initiative could lead eventually to an imposed settlement detrimental to Israel’s security.
The Knesset elections are scheduled by law to be held in November, when the term of the Labor-Likud unity coalition government expires.
Another shadow hanging over the process is whether Shultz will have an opportunity to pre- sent his plans to Palestinian leaders from the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The 15 key Palestinians who he invited to meet with him in East Jerusalem Friday failed to show up. They were clearly intimidated by the Palestine Liberation Organization, which threatened their lives if they attended.
PLO chief Yasir Arafat was reported Monday to have chosen three PLO-associated Palestinians to meet with Shultz. Two of them are academics who hold U.S. passports and the third is the former chairman of the Palestine Journalists Association, whom Israel deported from the West Bank. All are members of the Palestine National Council, the PLO’s legislative body.
Shamir said Monday he hoped the Americans would not be misled into a meeting with terrorists. Shultz’s aides were reportedly trying to arrange a meeting in the Middle East or else-where between the secretary of state and a delegation of Palestinians from the administered territories and abroad. Presumably, they would be Palestinians to whom the Israelis would not object.