TEL AVIV (Mar. 21)
Sources close to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir have denied that an internal intelligence report leaked to the press either directly or indirectly proposes opening negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Otherwise, Shamir’s office refused to react to details of the report, which was presented to Cabinet ministers last week and leaked to Israeli newspapers on Monday.
The report said that the PLO had joined the pragmatic Arab camp that seeks a negotiated solution to the Palestinian problem and that now accepts Israel’s right to exist.
According to the leaks, it said there is no alternative to the PLO as a negotiating partner in peace talks and that Israeli inflexibility might erode Israel’s ties with the United States.
Aides to Shamir, who is a steadfast opponent of talks with the PLO, said that the annual assessment was leaked “irresponsibly and distortedly,” and did not reflect the full scope of the intelligence review submitted to senior Cabinet ministers.
Yet the assessment astonished ministers because of its close conformity with long-held dovish positions, according to one of the ministers who attended the briefing at which the report was presented. He was quoted by the Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
Vice Premier Shimon Peres, the Labor Party leader, has been associated with many of those dovish views. The report surfaced on the same day that he told a gathering of Diaspora Jewish leaders that if Likud and Labor could not agree on ways to accelerate the peace process, his party may have to pull out of the Likud-led national unity government.
A GATHERING MOMENTUM
Shamir and his aides appear to be especially angered by the timing of the leak, coming as it did at the opening of the Prime Minister’s Conference on Jewish Solidarity With Israel.
Many of the 1,200 worldwide Jewish leaders who gathered in Jerusalem for the conference Monday urged Shamir’s government to reconsider its opposition to talks with the PLO.
But Shamir told the 300-member conference steering committee that his government was united in opposition to such talks and to the creation of an independent Palestinian state.
Shamir’s office has said it will continue to seek Palestinians not associated with the PLO for negotiating partners.
The prime minister’s aides are eager to halt what seems to them a gathering momentum for talks with the PLO. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State James Baker told a congressional subcommittee that if advancing the peace process “takes talks with the PLO, we should not rule it out.”
Shamir was also angered two weeks ago by a study released by Tel Aviv University’s Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.
The Jaffee Center study rejected nearly all currently discussed options for peace and recommended replacing the dangerous status quo with a lengthy cooling-off period between Israelis and Palestinians.
It said talks with the PLO, possibly leading to a separate Palestinian state, may be inevitable.