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Shamir and Rabin Cooperate but Differ on Elections Plan

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Thursday he was working in close coordination with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin on details of Israel’s peace plan, involving elections for Palestinian delegates from the administered territories to negotiate an interim agreement with Israel.

Shamir will present the complete plan to the United States, as the Bush administration requested when he visited Washington last month.

He said differences between himself and Rabin, a ranking Labor Party minister, were “not great, and anyway they do not interfere” at this stage. Shamir spoke to reporters during a tour of military facilities in southern Israel.

Rabin discussed aspects of the plan on television Wednesday night. He said it was an elaboration of the principles conveyed by Shamir to the Americans last month.

One thorny issue is whether Arabs living in East Jerusalem would be eligible to vote.

Rabin said he favored it as long as they cast their ballots outside Jerusalem city limits, because Jerusalem is Israeli territory. Shamir last month ruled out their participation, but it is not known whether his position has changed since then.

Likud hard-liner Yitzhak Moda’i, the minister of economics and planning, served notice Thursday that he strongly opposes allowing East Jerusalem Arabs to vote.

Moda’i, who heads the Liberal Party wing of Likud, said his position is shared by the National Religious Party, a partner in the unity coalition government.

NO EXPLICIT PLO ROLE

Rabin stressed that the elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would be held throughout the territories rather than locally in each municipality. Shamir reportedly wants the voting confined to municipalities.

Rabin said the government flatly opposes any role for the Palestine Liberation Organization. He said the whole idea is to bring out an indigenous Palestinian leadership, separate from the PLO, with which Israel could negotiate.

Israel’s official policy is never to negotiate with the PLO under any circumstances.

But some observers believe that Rabin and other policymakers tacitly acknowledge that PLO approval will be necessary if the elections are to take place.

Ehud Olmert, a Likud minister without portfolio, said Thursday that the election plan is intended to keep the PLO out of the peace process, and that is why the PLO opposes it.

Rabin and Olmert contend that many West Bank and Gaza leaders quietly support the plan, but were frightened into silence or opposition by PLO threats.

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