WASHINGTON (Nov. 6)
The State Department has welcomed as “a step forward” the decision by Israel’s Inner Cabinet to accept Secretary of State Baker’s five-point proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.
The next step is for Egypt, which “has been working very closely with the Palestinians,” to announce its acceptance, State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.
He indicated that when this occurs, Baker will invite Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens and his Egyptian counterpart, Esmat Abdel Meguid, to Washington to discuss setting up the dialogue.
But Boucher took great pains to try to separate Israel’s acceptance of Baker’s five points from the conditions set by the Inner Cabinet.
The 9-3 vote in Jerusalem on Sunday was based on the “understanding” that the United States provide assurances that Israel would not find itself engaged in negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Boucher denied that Israel had set conditions, maintaining the Israelis talked about “assumptions.”
“We know that both Israel and Egypt are likely to request certain clarifications,” he said.
The United States is prepared to discuss these “assurances, assumptions or clarification, as long as they are consistent with the spirit of the five points and the process they are designed to facilitate,” he added.
EGYPT MAY INSIST ON PLO ROLE
Boucher said that while Egypt is expected to seek its own assurances, the Palestinians have not so far asked for any clarifications, either privately or publicly.
The State Department maintains that the United States has not discussed Baker’s five points in its talks with the PLO in Tunis. Instead, the United States says it is simply asking the PLO not to block the effort to bring about elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Egypt is talking to “the Palestinians” about the five points, Boucher acknowledged, though he did not say the talks were with the PLO.
A State Department official indicated that Israeli and Egyptian requests for assurances will be discussed at the Washington meeting, which is the fifth and only one of Baker’s points whose wording the State Department has confirmed.
The official repeatedly stressed that the requests for assurances are a second issue apart from the five points, which provide the basic framework for the Israel-Palestinian dialogue.
It may be hard to agree to Egyptian requests without negating the assurances Israel wants. For instance, the Egyptians are almost certain to request a PLO presence or, at the very least, that the Palestinian delegation include two Palestinians living outside of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
The official indicated that trying to resolve these differences could take a long time. Baker will begin working on them as soon as he receives Egypt’s acceptance, the official said.