JERUSALEM (Mar. 29)
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on Wednesday canceled the weekly meeting of the 12-member Inner Cabinet, apparently signaling that he wants no debate of foreign policy options prior to his visit to the United States next week. Labor ministers have been pressing for such a debate.
Behind the scenes, however, Shamir is involved in intensive meetings with a select group of Likud ministers and senior aides to prepare working papers for his Washington talks.
At the center of these ongoing deliberations, it is understood, are various proposals for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and the linkage of such elections to negotiations for interim and final-stage political solutions.
Shamir and his team — which includes Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, Justice Minister Dan Meridor and officials of the Prime Minister’s Office — have apparently decided to present their conclusions to President Bush and U.S. Secretary of State James Baker before submitting them to any Cabinet forum in Jerusalem for discussion.
It is still unclear, though, whether the prime minister will give some advance notice of the intended thrust of his proposals to the leaders of the Labor Party — Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin — before he leaves for the United States midweek.
SHAMIR STANDING FIRM
Among the proposals reportedly being discussed are:
*Rabin’s longstanding plan for area-wide elections in the territories, designed to evolve an indigenous political leadership that would then become Israel’s Palestinian negotiating partner.
*A Likud alternative, proposing only municipal elections in the territories.
*Another Likud plan in which Israel, together with Egypt and the United States, would propose the composition of a West Bank-Gaza Strip negotiating team to hold talks with Israel on an interim solution, in the framework of the Camp David autonomy plan. Presumably there would have to be some linkage between such talks and negotiations on final settlement. Elections would only be held after that linkage were agreed upon.
Shamir is determined, according to his aides, not to budge from his firm rejection of the landfor-peace formula or a separate Palestinian state. Similarly, he is said not to hold out any hint of a shift from his solid opposition to talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The aides indicate, however, that the Israeli leader will want the opportunity to mull over the American position after his first round of talks with Baker next Wednesday, and come back with newly refined ideas of his own.
The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, who will precede Shamir in meetings with officials in Washington, has rejected an Israeli idea that he and Shamir meet, with Bush, on the White House lawn next week in a symbolic ceremony marking the 10th anniversary of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, signed on that same spot on March 26, 1979.
Mubarak has consistently refused to meet with Shamir, ever since Shamir first took office as prime minister in 1983.
The Egyptian president is scheduled to meet with Bush on Monday. Shamir will meet with Baker next Wednesday and with Bush the following day.