JERUSALEM (Mar. 9)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and other Likud leaders lashed out at the director of a new study that hints at the eventual formation of a Palestinian state as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Shamir accused Maj. Gen. Aharon Yariv, of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, of “causing a weakening of Israel’s position in the international arena and a strengthening of our enemies.”
But Vice Premier Shimon Peres and other Labor leaders endorsed the main thrust of the research.
The controversy surrounds a report issued here Wednesday by the prestigious think tank. It dismisses nearly all of the ideas for peace currently being floated in the Israeli public arena.
In their stead, the Jaffee Center suggests Israelis and Palestinians engage in an extended “confidence-building period” that may or may not end in the formation of a Palestinian state.
The center also suggests that the Israeli government’s refusal to talk with the Palestinian Liberation Organization “does not appear to be sustainable over time.”
On Thursday, Shamir’s office issued a stinging statement accusing Yariv — identified only as “a general” — of gathering information only to back his team’s preconceived notions. The statement was subsequently echoed by other Likud leaders and rightists.
Yariv is a former military chief of intelligence and Cabinet minister under Laborite Yitzhak Rabin.
Shamir said that the study’s calls for eventual negotiations with Palestinians connected with the PLO “are fantasy.”
Peres, however, welcomed the research, saying it fulfilled a real and urgent need for new thinking. “There are those among us who are short-sighted and stick blindly to their old opinions as though nothing has changed,” he said.
Peres said the importance of the report lay in its analysis of current ideas, not its final recommendation. He reiterated his support of some type of Jordanian-Palestinian federation, even though the report found such an arrangement unpromising.
But Peres acknowledged that “in the absence of a Jordanian partner, we have to talk to the Palestinians as they are and as they are organized.”
Reactions to the report have attracted extensive media coverage in Israel, at least briefly achieving the Jaffee Center’s goal of prodding deep discussion of the alternatives facing the country.
The study’s principal sponsor was the American Jewish Congress, which has tried to make clear that it endorses only its analysis of current ideas, not the center’s own proposal.
But based on the reaction of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, a co-sponsor of the study, that was not made clear enough.
In a statement released in New York, the ADL said it was “distressed” that AJCongress did not in its publicity sufficiently distinguish the study from the conclusions.