WASHINGTON (Mar. 14)
Secretary of State George Shultz assured Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir Monday that the U.S. commitment to Israel is “unshakable,” according to a senior Reagan administration official.
Shultz met with Shamir for 30 minutes immediately after his arrival here for four days of talks, including a White House meeting scheduled with President Reagan on Wednesday.
The official told reporters that neither Israel nor any of the Arab states have submitted their formal reaction to Shultz’s proposals for a Middle East settlement. Shultz asked for responses to his plan by March 15 when he presented it March 4.
It proposes an accelerated timetable for Arab-Israeli negotiations, to be preceded by an international conference as early as next month, and implies trading territory for peace.
The official refused to say whether Shultz’s proposal is a “like-it-or-leave it” one, explaining that the parties to the conflict “have reservations about it.”
But he pointed out that “no one has said no to us” and emphasized that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s strong positive reaction.
Shamir has already voiced his strong objections to the proposals and said he has brought his own suggestions for moving the peace process ahead.
However, the Israeli premier “will not bring the decision with him,” the official said. “We are not pressing Israel. It is the situation in the area that is pressing Israel and all of the parties in the area.”
DIPLOMATIC ‘ASSURANCES’ HINTED
The official added that the United States could provide additional diplomatic “assurances” to Israel to encourage it to accept the plan, but refused to elaborate. “We will have to see how the talks develop. Assurances have been a facet of our diplomacy in the region over the last many years,” he said.
Asked how he could reassure Shamir that the United States is not favoring Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who has indicated acceptance of the U.S. suggestions, the official said, “what we have been very intent on doing from the beginning of this proposal is not get into the ins and outs of Israeli domestic politics.”
Shamir refused to allow the 10-minister Inner Cabinet to vote on the Shultz proposals, and the issue has divided the national unity government of Labor and Likud. Speculation has grown that the deadlock could result in an early Knesset election.
Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, went to Moscow last week to brief Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze on the Shultz plan.
The official said that Shevardnadze said he appreciated hearing about the new initiative straight from a U.S. official. Shevardnadze will continue those discussions with Shultz when he visits Washington the week of March 21, the official said.