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Israeli Foreign Minister Rejects Key Elements of Baker Peace Plan

Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy has categorically rejected the key elements of U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s formula for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

He told reporters here Tuesday that Israel would find absolutely unacceptable the inclusion of Arab residents of East Jerusalem or Palestinians deported from the administered territories in peace talks with Israel.

According to Levy, those were “demands of the Palestine Liberation Organization.”

“We say yes to Baker and no to the PLO,” he said.

Observers said the new foreign minister’s remarks were the most explicit “no” to the secretary of state yet enunciated by a high-ranking member of Israel’s new government.

Until now, Israeli ministers and other officials have implied rejection of Baker’s ideas without saying so outright. But Levy left nothing to the imagination, reporters pointed out.

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, along with Levy and other senior officials, are drafting a reply to President Bush, who wrote to Shamir last week asking for his ideas about how the peace process should proceed. The substance of the reply is expected to affirm the position taken by Levy, though less bluntly.

Baker’s formula was the result of months of quiet diplomacy in cooperation with Egypt, aimed at bringing Israelis and Palestinian representatives together in Cairo.

MEETS WITH U.N. ENVOY

Their first order of business would be to discuss the modalities of Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, originally proposed by Shamir in May 1989. Palestinian delegates elected in that referendum would negotiate with Israel over autonomy and eventually the final status of the territories.

The Likud-Labor unity government collapsed March 15, after Likud refused to give an affirmative answer to Baker. The government’s Labor component was amenable to his proposals.

Levy spoke to reporters after meeting with Jean-Claude Aime, a U.N. Middle East expert visiting Israel and the territories as an emissary of U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar.

He said that to agree to include deportees in a Palestinian delegation would be tantamount to letting the PLO appoint the Palestinian negotiating team.

He also said it would set a precedent for allowing those deported to return to the territories, which he said Israel would not countenance.

Levy objected to the participation of East Jerusalem Arabs, because that would make the question of Jerusalem the central focus of the proposed talks. Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, insists the status of the united city is not negotiable.

Levy expressed hope that “these two matters will not become an obstacle to the Israeli peace initiative.”

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