JERUSALEM (Dec. 14)
The Labor Party leadership seems to be leaving the door open a crack to possible negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization, in contrast to Likud’s absolute rejection of the idea.
That was evident in the reaction of Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, the Labor Party leader, to PLO chief Yasir Arafat’s speech Tuesday to the U.N. General Assembly in Geneva.
Peres, speaking Wednesday in the Knesset, described Arafat’s remarks as “a rhetorical success and a political disappointment.”
That was considerably milder than Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s condemnation of the speech the night before as “an act of monumental deception.”
While the Likud leader ruled out talks with the PLO under any circumstances, Peres hinted they might become possible if the Palestinian uprising ends in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“Israel is willing to enter into an immediate dialogue with the Palestinians,” Peres said, “with only one precondition — when there is talking there is no shooting.”
Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Labor’s No. 2 man, indicated in a radio interview earlier that a dialogue could take place only if the so-called intifada is ended.
The Laborites expressed their views at the same time that their party is engaged in negotiations with Likud for a broad-based coalition government. The contrasting positions of the two parties on the Palestinian issue is a major source of tension between them.
Peres, nevertheless, was sharply critical of the PLO. Words for peace cannot replace deeds, he said.
“It is not enough to declare that shooting will be stopped. There must be an immediate end to phenomena such as the stone and gasoline bomb attacks.”