JERUSALEM (Jul. 4)
The 3,000 members of the Likud Central Committee will have to cast an either-or vote when they convene in a huge Tel Aviv theater Wednesday night to pass judgment on Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s peace initiative.
Apparently days of maneuvering produced no compromise between Shamir and the Likud ministers who oppose his plan, led by the secretary of the Central Committee, Ariel Sharon.
Shamir and Sharon, who is minister of industry and trade, met privately Tuesday. Although, in Sharon’s words, it was a “good and friendly” meeting, they failed to reach agreement on substance or procedure.
Shamir also met fruitlessly with Sharon’s ally, Deputy Premier David Levy, who is minister of construction and housing.
The upshot is that the Central Committee will be asked to choose between endorsing Shamir’s plan, which he will expound in his scheduled speech, or voting for a resolution to amend the plan along the lines demanded by its opponents.
Shamir’s plan calls for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to choose delegates with whom Israel would negotiate interim self-rule for the territories and, eventually, an agreement on their final status.
Sharon has denounced the plan, claiming it would lead to the creation of a Palestinian state and to the redivision of Jerusalem.
His views are shared by Levy and by Yitzhak Moda’i, the minister of economics and planning, who is leader of Likud’s Liberal Party wing.
URGING INCLUSION OF FOUR POINTS
They have drafted four “principles” that they insist must be incorporated into Shamir’s plan before they will support it.
First, the intifada, the nearly 19-month-old Palestinian uprising, must be totally suppressed before the election process can start.
Second, Arab residents of East Jerusalem must categorically be excluded from voting.
Israel must proclaim its intention — and act on it — to develop new Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Finally, Israel must make clear from the outset that it will not, under any circumstances, countenance a sovereign Palestinian state.
Paradoxically, Shamir and virtually every member of the Central Committee subscribes to those principles, at least in this pre-negotiating stage of the peace process.
Shamir, in fact, is expected to embody them in the context of his policy address.
But he is not prepared to have his original initiative, which he formulated jointly with Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, revised or amended. The plan Shamir submitted to the United States did not have those qualifying principles spelled out in it.
Although the prime minister has expressed those conditions to the Americans and others, he feels he cannot now alter the text significantly.
Sharon and his allies warn that what is not specifically stated will be discounted by the Americans and by the Palestinians.
They say both parties will demand that Israel implement its initiative, unfettered by hedging conditions that do not appear in the text.
Sharon told reporters Tuesday that he will see to it that the Central Committee engages in a serious and civilized debate.
Fear has been expressed in some Likud quarters that the meeting might break up in disarray, as has happened on more than one occasion in the past.
Sharon said he and Shamir agreed to set aside five hours for debate, “after which we will have to make the decision.”