MADRID (May. 24)
Yitzhak Shamir, who is the first prime minister of Israel to pay an official visit to Spain, received a warm, personal welcome upon his arrival here Wednesday.
But the prime minister faces a tough challenge in his effort to win Spanish support for the new Israeli peace initiative, whose main elements Shamir drafted.
It is not that Spain, which currently holds the rotating chairmanship of the European Community, has rejected Shamir’s ideas. The Madrid government, indeed, considers them a “positive development.”
The plan calls for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to choose delegates with whom Israel would negotiate a five-year interim period of self-rule in the territories, with discussions beginning in the third year on the final status of those areas.
Spain, however, stands by its long-held belief that any successful peace process in the Middle East will have to include the Palestine Liberation Organization. Doing so is anathema to Israel.
Moreover, Spain wants Israel to furnish details of its plan and make various commitments that Shamir is not ready to provide.
Spanish officials said Wednesday that Israel will have to clarify its position on whether Arab residents of East Jerusalem will be allowed to participate in the voting.
Spain is also seeking Israel’s agreement to international supervision of the elections and details about the second phase of the plan, the interim period of self-rule.
PRAISE FOR BAKER SPEECH
Meanwhile, Spanish Foreign Minister Francisco Fernandez Ordonez warmly praised the speech U.S. Secretary of State James Baker made Monday urging Israel to “forswear annexation,” abandon its “unrealistic vision” of a Greater Israel, and cease settlement activity in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Baker made the remarks in a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.
While Shamir dismissed his speech Tuesday as “useless,” Ordonez called it “an important development” and “something which America needed to say.”
Ordonez saw the speech as one of several positive developments, others being the Soviet Union’s recent stance, the pragmatism shown by Arab states and the expected outcome of the Arab League summit meeting in Casablanca, Morocco, where the Palestinians are lobbying for support.
Shamir, for his part, had a busy agenda. He met twice Wednesday with Prime Minister Felipe Gonzalez Marquez. And King Juan Carlos II gave a lunch in his honor at the Royal Palace.
The high-level talks were especially notable, since the two countries established full diplomatic relations only three years ago.
Before returning home, Shamir will visit Toledo, once the seat of Jewish culture in Spain.