Menu JTA Search

Shamir to Demand Arab Concessions; Cabinet Debates U.S. Peace Plan

Premier Yitzhak Shamir hinted Sunday that he may present demands for concessions from the Arab states when he is in Washington this week to discuss the American peace plan with Reagan administration officials.

He told Voice of Israel Radio several hours before his midnight departure that he would put forward some ideas for the United States to convey to the Arab states.

He refused to elaborate, but said he failed to understand why concessions are demanded only of Israel, because “there were two sides to the peace process.”

Shamir is on record as opposed to the peace package Secretary of State George Shultz submitted to him March 4 while the U.S. official was in Jerusalem.

The plan, outlined in a letter, calls for an accelerated timetable for Arab-Israeli negotiations, to be preceded by an international conference as early as next month. It implies trading territory for peace, a formula rejected by Shamir and his Likud faction, though acceptable in principle to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and the Labor Party.

Shamir told Voice of Israel Radio that he would convene the Inner Cabinet, the government’s top policy-making body, to vote on the American initiative upon his return from the United States, in about 10 days. The Inner Cabinet consists of five Labor and five Likud senior ministers.

NO VOTE ON SHULTZ PLAN

Shamir fended off demands from Labor ministers and at least one Likud minister for a vote on the plan before his departure. Labor is amenable to the Shultz plan. Likud wants it officially rejected.

The debate continued at the weekly session of the full Cabinet Sunday, which lasted late into the afternoon. Each of the ministers asked permission to speak and Shamir heard the full range of views. But they boiled down to the same deadlock that has gripped the government for weeks.

Economic Coordination Minister Gad Yaacobi, a Laborite, warned that rejection of the American initiative would be a historic failure that could turn Israel into “an undemocratic, immoral, binational and isolated state.”

By binational he apparently meant that given present demographic trends, the Arab population would eventually equal or outnumber the Jewish population should Israel insist on retaining the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Another Laborite, Energy Minister Moshe Shahal, said the stalemate advocated by Shamir and Likud amounts to a “national disaster.” He predicted that Likud’s position would lead to the eventual establishment of a Palestinian state run by the Palestine Liberation Organization.

According to Shahal, there were many points in Shultz’s initiative on which Labor and Likud could agree, such as no return to Israel’s pre-1967 borders, the establishment of the Jordan River as the security “border with Israel” and the continuation of a unified Jerusalem under Israeli sovereignty.

WON’T REPRESENT CABINET

“If you leave (for Washington) with no Cabinet decision, you will represent a party and a position which is not accepted by the Cabinet and the majority of the people,” Shahal told Shamir.

Likud ministers rallied behind Shamir. Moshe Katzav, the minister of labor and social affairs, said Foreign Minister Peres should have joined the prime minister in rejecting Shultz’s request for a “clear response” from Israel to his plan by March 15.

Katzav accused Peres of influencing Shultz to set the deadline, which was not contained in his letter to Shamir.

He also charged that the source of the present trouble was Peres’ once secret meeting with King Hussein of Jordan in London last April, at which they agreed in principle to the idea of an international conference as a cover for Israeli-Jordanian negotiations.

Shamir was expected to begin intensive discussions with Shultz in Washington on Monday. He is scheduled to have a long working session with President Reagan at the White House on Wednesday.

His public statements over the weekend indicated Shamir has not softened his objections to the Shultz package. Referring to the secretary of state’s March 4 letter, he told Haaretz, “The only thing I agree to in the Shultz plan is the name Shultz.”

PLAN VIOLATES CAMP DAVID

“Peace can be obtained without giving up territory in exchange,” the prime minister was quoted as saying. He also charged that the Shultz plan “abrogates the Camp David accords by removing all the components favored by Israel and by maintaining those components favored by the Arabs.”

Meanwhile, Labor Party Knesset member Abba Eban will be leaving for the United States at about the same time Shamir departs “to demonstrate to American public opinion that Shamir’s rejection does not reflect Israel as a whole.” Eban, a former foreign minister, is chairman of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Likud Knesset members are accusing Eban of trying to sabotage Shamir’s mission and said it was unstatesmanlike. Shamir said he had no interest whatever in Eban’s trip.

NEXT STORY