JERUSALEM (Jan. 24)
Vice Premier Shimon Peres emerged from talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday saying the two agreed that remaining obstacles to an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue can be overcome.
Peres also said he unequivocally favors including two Palestinians deported from the administered territories in the delegation representing the Palestinian side at the dialogue. He said this position is backed by his entire party.
Peres’ meeting in Cairo triggered immediate criticism among Likud ministers and Knesset members back home. They claimed that both Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who visited Washington last week, were advocating positions not agreed upon by the full Cabinet.
Likud opposes including deported Palestinians, because it believes they would, in effect, be representatives of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Egypt and the PLO have insisted on their inclusion, saying that any talks about the future status of the territories should involve representatives of the Palestinian “diaspora.”
Peres, for his part, in an interview on Israeli army radio from Cairo, agreed that he was, in effect, “enlisting Mubarak’s support” for Labor’s positions on the peace process.
The Labor Party leader said he had been “very encouraged” by his talk with the Egyptian president.
“He most certainly agreed that the problems are solvable,” Peres said. “He spoke with vision and enthusiasm of the future of the Middle East, of peace and of Israel.”
Peres brushed aside the radio interviewer’s assertion that Shamir and the Likud reject his position of including Palestinians from outside the administered territories.
“Let him bring better ideas,” he said. “If he has better ideas, all very well.”
RABIN DEFENDS CONDUCT IN U.S.
Political observers in Jerusalem speculated Wednesday that Peres and Rabin might now be in agreement on their party’s strategy regarding the continued existence of the national unity government.
Rabin denied at a meeting of the Inner Cabinet on Wednesday that he had put forward his own proposals during his talks in Washington last week. But he conceded that he had “asked questions” during his discussions with American officials.
Speaking later to Labor Party members, Rabin made it clear that he, like Peres, would agree to deported Palestinians participating in the dialogue on the Palestinian side.
Peres flew to Cairo on Tuesday night, following a visit to Czechoslovakia, where the new government announced it would re-establish diplomatic ties with Israel in February, during a planned visit to Prague by Foreign Minister Moshe Arens of Likud.
Peres said he was upset by the Likud criticism of his statements, “as though only what Likud persons say represents Cabinet policy, while what we say is not Cabinet policy.”
He said he and Shamir are “on the same side, the side of Israel,” yet often he does not agree with Shamir’s statements, “like for instance about Greater Israel.”
The vice premier was referring to Shamir’s comment Jan. 14 that the massive wave of emigration from the Soviet Union would require a “bigger Israel.”
LABOR NOT ‘WEDDED’ TO COALITION
While Peres did not threaten to bring down the government if Shamir rejects his positions in the aftermath of his and Rabin’s visits abroad, the vice premier did not rule out that scenario.
“If there is no peace plan, there is no logical reason to maintain this unity government,” Peres declared Wednesday. “We are not wedded to our scats.”
Some of the vice premier’s supporters in Labor have long been pressing the party to quit the government and seek to form a narrow coalition with the Orthodox parties in the Knesset.
Up till now, Rabin and the more hard-line factions in Labor have rejected that approach. But some sources within the party insist that Rabin is moving in that direction.
These sources cite Rabin’s downbeat report to the full Cabinet on Sunday on the mood in Washington.
Rabin said he believed that Sen. Robert Dole’s proposal to cut aid to Israel is linked to dissatisfaction on Capitol Hill about Israel’s stance on the peace process.
At the Inner Cabinet meeting Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister David Levy reportedly attacked Rabin’s conduct during his U.S. trip, rejecting the defense minister’s explanation that he had only been “asking questions.”
In the Knesset, meanwhile, Peres’ deputy at the Finance Ministry, Dr. Yossi Beilin, said Wednesday that the PLO’s tacit consent is necessary if Israel’s election plan is to go into effect.
Beilin said it is hypocrisy to pretend that the PLO’s consent is irrelevant.