JERUSALEM (Dec. 10)
Cabinet Secretary Elyakim Rubinstein will be dispatched to Washington next weekend to start arrangements for the meeting Foreign Minister Moshe Arens is to have there with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid of Egypt.
The trilateral parley, expected to take place within the next few weeks, is intended to lay the groundwork for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue in Cairo early next year.
That scenario came alive with the announcement in Washington last week that Egypt accepted Baker’s five-point guidelines for the dialogue. Israel’s Inner Cabinet of senior ministers accepted the plan on Nov. 5.
The decision to send Rubinstein was made by the four most senior ministers: Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Arens and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
The Foreign Ministry promptly informed the State Department of Rubinstein’s role.
But Shamir was testy. He told the Cabinet on Sunday that the Americans have still failed to transmit the text of the Egyptian response to Baker’s plan, even though Arens specifically requested it.
The Egyptian reply, like the Israeli response a month before, was hedged with “assumptions.”
Given Cairo’s intermediary role, the hedges undoubtedly reflect the Palestine Liberation Organization’s positions, which the Americans may feel would not advance the process if made known to Jerusalem at this time.
One of Israel’s main assumptions in accepting Baker’s points was that it could refuse to deal directly or indirectly with the PLO.
LIKUD HARD-LINERS MOBILIZING
Meanwhile, the triumvirate of Likud hardliners opposed to the Baker plan is calling for a meeting of the party’s Central Committee to be held before Arens leaves for his three-way meeting.
It is apparently the intention of Ariel Sharon, David Levy and Yitzhak Moda’i to get a mandate from the party to saddle Arens with a new set of conditions.
Levy, a deputy premier who is minister of construction and housing, and Moda’i, the minister of economics and planning, told reporters after the Cabinet meeting that the Egyptian reply to Baker was not drafted by Egypt, but by the PLO.
They and Sharon, who is minister of industry and trade, oppose Shamir’s idea for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The dialogue in Cairo is supposed to hammer out arrangements for those elections.