JERUSALEM (Mar. 22)
Premier Yitzhak Shamir returned from his 10-day visit to the United States Tuesday evening “satisfied” with its outcome and “happy” that he made the trip, “despite those who sought to frighten me, saying the visit would be fraught with negative manifestations.”
He said, on arrival at Ben-Gurion Airport, that he would “consult in the nearest future” with the Inner Cabinet and the full Cabinet “to decide how and what to decide” with respect to the American peace initiative advanced by Secretary of State George Shultz.
But he was vague about the scheduling and mechanics of the Israeli decision-making process. The Inner Cabinet, the government’s top policymaking body consisting of five Labor Party and five Likud senior ministers, was deadlocked over the American peace plan in the three sessions it held in the weeks before Shamir’s departure.
The premier refused to allow it to vote on the American plan nor did he permit a vote by the full Cabinet when it met on the eve of his departure March 13.
Shamir apparently has good reason to be pleased with his talks with Reagan administration officials in Washington last week. He did not waver from his opposition to an international conference or the accelerated timetable for negotiations proposed by Shultz.
If anything, the administration backed off. Shamir stressed on his return that the United States has set no deadline for a decision by Israel. When Shultz presented his plan to Shamir in Jerusalem on March 4 he had insisted on a “clear response” from Israel by March 15.
The premier said he had the impression the U.S. administration recognized that the peace process could succeed only “if Israel and the United States go forward hand-in-hand.”
Efforts “by various quarters” to “bring about American pressure on Israel have not succeeded. They were rejected by the U.S. administration and I think the same will be the case in the future,” Shamir said, in what observers here saw as a calculated swipe at the Labor Party headed by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
SHULTZ MAY RETURN TO REGION
Shamir said there was a possibility that Shultz would return to the Middle East for another visit, “but it is not definite.” Shultz spent two long weekends in the region, between Feb. 26 and March 6, presenting his peace package to Arab as well as Israeli leaders.
Reports Tuesday from Washington indicated that the secretary of state will decide whether to make another stab at shuttle diplomacy after his talks with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, now going on in Moscow. The reports said Shultz was seeking Soviet approval of an international peace conference along the lines of the American format.
Moscow has strongly backed an activist international conference with the participation of all parties, including the Palestine Liberation Organization and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council.
The American idea is for a ceremonial conference to serve as an umbrella for direct Arab-Israeli negotiations, with no power to impose a solution or veto one. The Soviets so far have balked at this concept.
Shamir, for his part, is opposed to any kind of international conference, though he has indicated willingness to consider peace negotiations under the aegis of the United States and the Soviet Union.
Shamir said on his return home that the priority task now is the “return of order and normalcy” in the administered territories, meaning putting an end to the Palestinian uprising, now in its fourth month.
He expressed gratification for the “enthusiastic support” he said he received from “broad circles” of American Jewry for his position. He said it confounded the predictions of his opponents and detractors.
The “vast majority” of American Jewry “enthusiastically and faithfully supports Israel and stands by the government of Israel unreservedly,” Shamir said. “This despite certain efforts to split U.S. Jewry and to elicit from within it critical voices against Israel” and attempts to persuade “the administration to pressure Israel,” the premier said.