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Arens Charges Baker Speech Hurting Drive to Promote Peace Initiative

Foreign Minister Moshe Arens claimed Wednesday that U.S. Secretary of State James Baker may have made “it more difficult” for Israel to win European support for its peace initiative.

He said a speech delivered by Baker in Washington on Monday could also encourage Arab extremism and rejectionism.

Arens spoke to reporters upon his return from Brussels, where he explained Israel’s ideas to the foreign ministers of the 12 European Community nations.

He said he had found a good deal of support for the Israeli plan among the E.C. ministers. “I hope it is not going to change in the wake of Baker’s speech,” the Israeli foreign minister said.

Baker’s remarks, which stunned and infuriated Israelis and some of their supporters abroad, was essentially a reiteration of positions taken by all U.S. administrations over the past 20 years.

But it has rarely been stated so bluntly.

The secretary of state advised Israel to abandon its “vision of Greater Israel,” eschew annexation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, cease settlement activity in those areas and be more accommodating toward Palestinian political rights.

Baker also made tough demands on the Palestinians, essentially to drop the notion of destroying Israel and to give more convincing evidence of their peaceful intentions.

REMARKS ‘OFFENSIVE’ TO ISRAEL

But according to Arens, Baker’s words were “offensive to the State of Israel.”

The foreign minister, who conferred with Baker in Washington last week, said, nevertheless, that the secretary of state had voiced “the full support of the United States” for the Israeli initiative.

It calls for Palestinian elections in the territories to choose representatives with whom Israel would negotiate an interim self-rule arrangement and, eventually, the final status of the territories.

Arens charged that Baker’s speech undercut the plan, because it referred to terms for a final settlement.

“It was contrary to the views of the Israeli government, and the secretary is fully aware of that,” Arens said.

He also faulted Baker for violating an understanding that Israel and the United States would deal with their differences in private discussions.

Baker’s speech was delivered in the glare of worldwide media coverage to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pre-eminent pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

“It does not strengthen the alliance between out two countries,” Arens said, adding that Baker’s remarks seemed to mean that the “political situation is more difficult” than had been thought.

Asked how he and Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir — now visiting Spain — intend to win support for their plan within their own Likud bloc, Arens said Baker’s speech made “maximal unity” in Israel more vital than ever.

“I am sure all members of the Likud, and especially of our Central Committee, will readily understand that,” he said.

The Central Committee is expected to be convened early next month by its chairman, Industry and Trade Minister Ariel Sharon, the most outspoken opponent of the Shamir plan.

Sharon’s views are shared by Yitzhak Moda’i, leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing, and Housing Minister David Levy, another powerful figure in Likud, who holds the rank of deputy premier.

They hope to muster a grass-roots revolt in the Central Committee to kill the plan.

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