JERUSALEM (Apr. 4)
Secretary of State George Shultz was back in Israel Monday, resolved to overcome objections to the American peace plan, notably by Premier Yitzhak Shamir and his Likud bloc.
Shultz met separately with Shamir and with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres at their respective offices Monday morning. In the afternoon, separate work committees met at the Prime Minister’s Office and at the Foreign Ministry in attempts to flesh out points of agreement on the contents of Shultz’s initiative.
The secretary hopes to take those areas of agreement with him when he visits Amman, Jordan, on Tuesday.
The working groups did not deal with the thorny issue of an international conference to set the Middle East peace process in motion.
Shamir has left little doubt that he will accept neither the international conference scenario nor the principle implicit in the American plan — exchange of territory for peace.
Peres, leader of the Labor Party, is amenable to an international forum as the opening framework for direct negotiations and is willing to consider territorial compromise. He said during a visit to Haifa after meeting with Shultz that if the Israeli government can reach an agreement, peace talks could begin in a matter of weeks.
Shultz’s determination to achieve this was evident in his carefully crafted arrival statement, delivered after he landed Sunday evening at Ben-Gurion Airport. He urged Israel “to move decisively toward peace” and not quibble over individual elements of his proposals.
The secretary of state emphasized repeatedly that his peace package was indivisible and to accept some parts and reject others would imperil the entire process.
The secretary’s method is low-key persuasion with a muted but definite note of warning that time is running out and Israel may miss an historic opportunity for peace if it does not move quickly into negotiations with its Arab neighbors and the Palestinians.
He was interviewed on television Sunday night and briefed editors of major newspapers and leaders of the broadcast media. He sought to convince Israeli opinion that the international conference procedure would in no way interfere with the “authority” of the conflicting parties or their right and ability to negotiate freely.
Few details were released of Shultz’s talks Monday with Shamir and Peres, other than that they discussed the substance of the American position with regard to interim and final settlements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
A spokesman for the prime minister said the conversation also covered an international conference and Shultz’s meeting in Washington on March 26 with two Palestinian-born American academicians who are members of the Palestine National Council, the quasi-legislative body of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Shamir sent a stiff protest to Washington over the matter on March 25, a day before Shultz’s meeting with Professors Edward Said and Ibrahim Abu-Lughod of Columbia and Northwestern universities respectively.
But Shamir’s spokesman said that the premier and Shultz had “not spent much time over differences of opinion” on these matters.
Shultz’s current visit to Israel is his third since the end of February. He presented his peace package to Shamir and Peres on March 4 in the form of a letter, requesting a “clear response” from Israel by March 15.
Shamir visited Washington from March 14 to 16, but gave no formal response. Jordan and Syria also have not formally responded to the American initiative, though President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt has backed it conditionally.
HUSSEIN READY TO COMPROMISE
Shultz hinted Sunday night that King Hussein of Jordan is ready to compromise on his position that Israel should return all of the West Bank. Speaking to print and broadcast editors, he said Hussein has stated he “doesn’t need an international conference” to recover all of the territory taken by Israel in 1967.
The implication, according to Shultz, is that Jordan would not need international backing if it were able to win back all of the territory, but realizing that is not likely, Hussein needs the legitimacy of an international conference in order to make territorial compromises.
Shultz’s timetable calls for an international conference as early as this month to set the stage for negotiations. Talks on interim arrangements for the Palestinians would start shortly afterward “to give the people of the West Bank and Gaza quickly control over their political and economic situation, and build a better environment and atmosphere.”
The timetable also calls for talks on the final status of the administered territories to commence by the end of the year, even if no agreements are reached by then on the interim arrangements.
Shultz is expected to remain in the region at least four days. He is addressing himself to a government sharply divided on the peace issue and a nation whose opinions have yet to coalesce.
Analysts and observers here believe that with all of the time, energy and determination he has invested in his mission, Shultz is not likely to break the impasse in Israel.
According to the most recent polls. Shamir’s stonewalling against Shultz’s proposals is gaining political capital. They show that Likud and its right-wing and religious allies are taking votes away from the moderate bloc led by Peres and the Labor Party.
JTA is moving to new offices. After Friday, April 15, address all correspondence to: Jewish Telegraphic Agency 330 Seventh Ave., 11th floor New York, N.Y. 10001-5010(Tel Aviv correspondent Hugh Orgel contributed to this story.)