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On Eve of Levy’s Visit with Baker, Israel Seems Fixed Against U.s Plan

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An Israeli commentator indicated Tuesday that on the eve of Foreign Minister David Levy’s first meeting with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, the Likud government has not budged from its rejection of the U.S. formula for peace talks with the Palestinians.

“In anticipation of his meeting, we are witness to an unprecedented phenomenon,” Shimon Shifter wrote in Yediot Achronot.

“His (Levy’s) office, the political establishment, the government and the ministerial defense committees have not participated in formulating the positions which the foreign minister will discuss in the United States,” Shifter wrote.

“Not one senior minister has demanded a discussion before the visit,” he added.

“Among those close to the prime minister, there is a feeling of satisfaction and calm concerning the manner in which the foreign minister has conducted himself and statements he has made regarding the political process,” Shifter noted.

He said that the hard-line ministers are satisfied that at the meeting, scheduled for Aug. 9 or 10, Levy will not digress from the policies of constraint they formulated, and therefore are not disturbed by reports that he has moderated his positions somewhat since taking office.

“Reports arriving from Washington also indicate that Washington understands that Israel has its mind made up and that a breakthrough cannot be expected from this government,” Shifter wrote.

Therefore, he added, “The sense of urgency which characterized the U.S. administration’s activity in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the past has been diverted to other areas of conflict.”

The Israeli government, for its part, “has decided to lower its profile in the political sphere and concentrate on immigration and absorption matters,” Shifter said.

His reading of the situation, if accurate, means that the long-standing conflict between Washington and Jerusalem over Israeli peace moves toward the Palestinians are far from resolved but have been put indefinitely on hold.

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