JERUSALEM (Feb. 27)
Israel’s Cabinet is likely to approve the latest formula for preliminary talks with a Palestinian delegation within a week to 10 days, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin told visiting American Jewish leaders Tuesday.
But he also warned that if Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir allows the right wing of his Likud bloc to pressure him into rejecting the proposal, the unity government will not remain intact.
“If there is a four-point plan accepted by the Palestinians and Egyptians — presented to us through the good offices of the United States — and we would be the obstacle, this cannot be acceptable at least to half of the Israeli government,” Rabin told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
“Israel has to take risks, not only at war, but also for peace,” he told the conference, which is holding its annual seminar in Israel.
Rabin echoed remarks made to the same group Monday night by Vice Premier Shimon Peres, who said his Labor Party has no problem accepting the new compromise formula on the inclusion in the negotiating delegation of East Jerusalem residents and Palestinians deported from the territories.
The formula says that East Jerusalem participants would have to maintain residences in the administered territories and that the deportees would first have to have been readmitted to the territories.
WARNS OF GROWING ARAB COLLUSION
Rabin said he was confident that the proposal would lead initially to U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s long delayed meeting with the foreign ministers of Israel and Egypt, and later to a meeting between Israeli and Palestinian delegations in Cairo.
He reiterated his intention to exercise his authority as defense minister to repatriate deportees if it serves the peace process. “It will not be the first time” that deportees have been permitted to return, Rabin said, “for political purposes.”
In one of several oblique swipes at renegade Likud minister Ariel Sharon, Rabin pointed out that Sharon himself brought back a deportee to serve as the mayor of the West Bank town of El-Bireh during his tenure as defense minister.
His concession that East Jerusalemites would make acceptable negotiating partners came in a roundabout fashion. The Palestinians “must be registered as a territories resident,” he said. “But if they have an address or an apartment in East Jerusalem, I don’t mind.”
Rabin also warned the visiting Jewish leaders of the growing danger of Arab cooperation, citing recent military cooperation between Iraq and Jordan as a danger signal.
The Arab states have coalesced on the subject of massive Soviet immigration to Israel, because it is “an issue on which the Arab countries can be united.”
“Before this was brought up,” he said, “there was no subject vis-a-vis Israel on which Arabs could agree.”
The subject of settling Soviet immigrants in the West Bank came up Monday night in a private session delegates of the Conference of Presidents held with the U.S. ambassador to Israel, William Brown.
ENVOY CITES WEST BANK STUDY
Brown “understood that the Israeli government is not deliberately settling” Soviet olim in the West Bank, said Ruth Popkin, president of the Jewish National Fund, who took part in the session.
But Brown listed a number of financial benefits that all Israelis who settle in the West Bank receive, which were compiled in previous studies by Meron Benvenisti’s West Bank Data Project.
After meeting with Brown, the delegates from the Conference of Presidents dined with Israeli dignitaries, as well as ambassadors from countries as diverse as Austria, Egypt and Cameroon.
Political discussions at the tables were intense, and Conference of Presidents Chairman Seymour Reich quipped that he heard at least four Middle East peace plans proposed in the course of the evening.
The diplomatic dinner was the only Jerusalem event on the Conference of Presidents itinerary that was held outside the Hyatt Hotel, which straddles West and East Jerusalem.
Nearly all foreign ambassadors in Israel, including Brown, refuse to attend official functions at the Hyatt because of its location, said Hyatt’s general manager, Norman Rafelson.