NEW YORK (Jul. 6)
U.S. officials and most American Jewish leaders appear to accept Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s assertion that he has not abrogated his government’s peace initiative in the wake of Wednesday’s Likud Central Committee meeting.
But many expressed concern that by agreeing to abide by tough new conditions for implementing the peace plan, Shamir has damaged the chance of winning backing for it from Palestinians or even members of Likud’s coalition partner, the Labor Party.
The ambivalence is due to uncertainty about the effect those conditions will have on the terms of the government’s four-point peace plan.
Outlined by Shamir in an emphatic speech to the party faithful, the conditions include barring East Jerusalem Palestinians from participating in the elections the initiative propos ### out the creation of a Palestinian state; and calling for continued Jewish settlement of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
If seen by Labor or the Palestinians as the last word on the peace plan, the conditions could spell its doom.
In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher said Thursday that the United States continues to support Israel’s peace initiative. But he was unwilling to conjecture whether Shamir’s speech “constitutes a proposal by the Israeli government.”
He did warn, however, that “partisan declarations, particularly if they appear to be more restrictive or to impose conditions, do not advance the prospects for peace.”
IMPEDIMENT TO BROAD SUPPORT?
Among American Jewish leaders issuing statements, Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, seemed to have the fewest reservations about Shamir’s moves.
“I am gratified that the government’s peace initiative remains intact,” said Reich.
Other groups were more equivocal.
Two officials of the American Jewish Congress said they were “pleased that the basic proposal for elections has been affirmed by the Likud’s Central Committee.”
But Robert Lifton and Henry Siegman, who are respectively president and executive director of the group, said they were also “deeply concerned that the conditions reportedly attached to the plan may present major impediments to its implementation.”
Sholom Comay, president of the American Jewish Committee, also urged in a statement that “no steps be taken to weaken the broad support for this proposal by the constituted elements of the national unity government.”
Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said Shamir had not amended the peace initiative, but merely affirmed well-known planks in his party’s platform.
BOTH PRAGMATIST AND IDEOLOGUE
“I believe that this is a creative political maneuver by Shamir, who is both a pragmatist and an ideologue at the same time,” Foxman said in an interview.
“It would be as if Labor met tomorrow and affirmed territories-for-peace. That doesn’t mean that becomes part of the peace initiative,” he said.
Foxman said both the U.S. government and sincere Palestinians would see Shamir’s move for what it is: “an event within the political arena and no more.”
Still, if the national unity government is to remain intact, the Labor Party will have to view Shamir’s new conditions as a political maneuver and nothing more.
The party has called a meeting for Monday to debate the issue and its continued participation in the coalition government.
Menachem Rosensaft, president of the Labor Zionist Alliance, said he hoped Labor “would indeed seriously reassess its role in the national unity government lest they become nothing more than an appendage to the Likud.”
(JTA correspondent Howard Rosenberg in Washington contributed to this report.)