WASHINGTON (May. 29)
Secretary of State James Baker, having pointedly told Israel last week that it must eventually give up the West Bank and Gaza Strip, urged Palestinians on Sunday to discuss with Israel the proposal for elections put forth by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
“We are pressing the Palestinians in every way we know how,” Baker said, in an appearance on NBC’s “Meet the Press” from Rome.
Baker said this is being done through U.S. talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization in Tunis. “We have suggested to the PLO that they permit the Palestinians in the occupied territories to engage Israel on this question of elections,” he said.
Baker said that the United States has some differences with Israel over some aspects of the election proposals, in which the Palestinians would choose representatives to negotiate with Israel on self-rule.
“But, as a vehicle for moving toward peace in the Middle East, we think it was a very, very good effort and we are very pleased with it,” he said.
Baker said this is why “it’s important that this election proposal be followed up on. That means one thing that will be required, of course, is that the PLO in Tunis give the green light to Palestinians in the territories to engage with Israel so we can develop this proposal and move into a broader political dialogue.”
Baker maintained that his speech last Monday to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee was “very, very balanced.”
Although Baker urged the Palestinians and the Arab countries to abandoned anti-Israel positions, most of the public attention on the speech was focused on his call for Israel to abandon the idea of annexing the territories and to stop Jewish settlements there.