JERUSALEM (Nov. 2)
U.S. Secretary of State James Baker will have to wait until the Israeli government goes through its decision-making process before he gets an official reply to the amended version of his five-point plan for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
While the initial reaction to the plan — conveyed to Jerusalem on Wednesday — was described as “positive” by unnamed officials here, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has withheld comment.
The first phase of the process to consider the plan will come on Friday, when Shamir convenes the four most senior ministers — himself and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens representing Likud, and Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party.
The group has not met since Peres was hospitalized Oct. 17 for a serious urinary tract infection. He was discharged this week and is resuming his workload slowly, on doctors’ orders.
Some sources here said the prime minister might be prepared to call a meeting of the Inner Cabinet this Sunday, “if this is necessary.”
If he delays, two key ministers will be away — Arens on an official visit to Japan and Rabin to Canada for an Israel Bonds and United Synagogue of America speaking engagement.
The Inner Cabinet, consisting of six Likud and six Labor ministers, is considered the government’s top policy-making body.
But with the coalition partners’ tendency to split on partisan lines, most votes end in ties, which preclude policy initiatives opposed by either party.
The fate of Baker’s proposals may lie with Likud’s hard-line ministers, who oppose any dialogue with Palestinians.
One of the rejectionists, Yitzhak Moda’i, spoke out strongly Thursday against even the revised version.
The key then is whether Shamir will overcome, or succumb to, his party’s extreme right wing.
Labor, for its part, unanimously accepts Baker’s original version. It considers the changes demanded by Likud to be nitpicking and meaningless.
According to Labor’s elder statesman, Abba Eban, “If the Likud wants to believe that these changes will allow it to accept the points, then it should be encouraged to do so.”