Shamir Reportedly Planning Talks with Palestinians in Territories

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir will open talks with leading Palestinian figures from the West Bank and Gaza Strip immediately after the Likud Central Committee convenes in Tel Aviv on July 5, Ma’ariv reported Tuesday.

Shamir’s purpose is to promote his peace initiative, which calls for, among other things, Palestinian elections in the territories.

The Palestinians reportedly will be represented by prominent activists of a variety of affiliations, including Al Fatah, the fighting arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Yasir Arafat.

Yossi Ben-Aharon, director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, confirmed that preparations for the talks are under way and said they may start by the end of next week, Ma’ariv reported.

The newspaper quoted Ben-Aharon as saying, “The prime minister will have to find time to deal with the matter in an intensive way in order to promote the process and the eletions initiative.”

The Likud Central Committee, consisting of nearly 2,000 members, was called into session to discuss Shamir’s peace plan, which is opposed by powerful elements in the party.

Shamir maintains that inasmuch as the plan has been approved by the Cabinet and the Knesset, the party forum can neither reject nor alter it.

GREEN LIGHT FOR ALTERNATIVE PLAN

According to Ma’ariv, technical preparations for Shamir’s meetings with the Palestinians have been entrusted to Shmuel Goren, coordinator of government activities in the administered territories.

The newspaper said the talks would be conducted in strictest secrecy to facilitate frankness on both sides and to protect the Palestinian participants from pressure by those who represent other points of view.

It will be made clear to the Palestinians in advance that they will be meeting with the prime minister, Ma’ariv said.

This is to demonstrate that Israel respects them and to avoid situations that have arisen in the past, when the Palestinian side was humiliated because it was summoned to talks without being told whom it was meeting.

Meanwhile, Ha’aretz reported Tuesday that the defense establishment has decided to allow Assad Saftawi to go to Egypt.

Saftawi, a prominent Palestinian in the Gaza Strip, has an 11-point peace plan of his own, which he wants to present to PLO officials in Cairo.

He met with Goren on Monday at the office of Brig. Gen. Aryeh Shifman, head of the Gaza Strip civil administration, and was told he can make the trip, provided he does not engage in subversive activities.

He was instructed not to meet with element-hostile to Israel.

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