Levy Back at Work, but May Not Be Well Enough to Meet Baker in Paris

Doctors are not yet sure whether Foreign Minister David Levy, who suffered a mild heart attack on June 14, will have recovered enough by next week to go to Paris for a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.

A medical decision is expected this week.

The meeting could be crucial for U.S.-Israeli relations, which have been strained by the Likud government’s rejection of Baker’s formula for preliminary Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo.

Levy, who visited his office Monday for the first time since he was sworn in, remains adamantly opposed to the plan’s two key elements: the inclusion of Arab residents of East Jerusalem and Palestinian deportees in a delegation with which Israel would discuss its plan for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Levy stressed that the composition of the Palestinian delegation is not “a marginal and insignificant matter.”

He contends that the Baker formula is tantamount to letting the Palestine Liberation Organization choose the Palestinian delegates, a view shared by his Likud colleagues.

Nevertheless, the foreign minister appeared optimistic that his meeting with Baker could achieve a breakthrough in the peace process.

Levy’s first appointment since returning to his office was with Seymour Reich, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Much of their conversation was devoted to Israel’s precarious relations with Washington.

Reich spoke of a “warming up” since June 13, when Baker bluntly told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Israel should call the White House when it became serious about the peace process.

‘NEW FORMULAS’ IN THE WORKS

But the Jewish leader said he did not expect the United States would consent to a new Israeli demand that the United States provide written guarantees that it will not force Israel to negotiate with the PLO and that it will never support the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Reich said he had the impression Israel was seeking “new formulas” that would be acceptable to the U.S. administration. But he said he did not think the Likud government could give in on the Baker plan.

He suggested that a review of names in the Palestinian delegation without categorization was a possible compromise that might “satisfy all the parties.”

As Levy prepared for his tentative meeting with Baker, Egypt continued to insist Monday that there was no alternative to talking to the PLO.

The Egyptian ambassador to Israel, Mohammed Basyouni, told members of the Moshe Sharett Institute that Israel should negotiate with the PLO.

He insisted that PLO chief Yasir Arafat, whom he referred to affectionately as “Abu-Ammar,” is the only one who can deliver peace.

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