Levy Offers Peace Initiative, but Not Till Gulf Crisis Ends

For the first time since the Persian Gulf crisis erupted in August, a senior Israeli politician has spoken out clearly in support of an Israeli political initiative in the administered territories.

Although he stressed the urgent need for such a move, Foreign Minister David Levy told senior officials at the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday that the initiative could not take place until the Gulf crisis is over.

At that time, he said, Israel would suggest parallel courses of action to the United States. There would be an effort to end the state of belligerency between Israel and its Arab neighbors simultaneously with Palestinian elections in the administered territories.

Levy was in effect reviving the election plan originally proposed by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir in May 1989, which called for Palestinians in the territories to elect representatives who would hold talks with Israel on the implementation of autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

That would be followed by talks on the permanent status of those territories.

Levy suggested that Israel go ahead with the elections and skip the preparatory stage, which became the stumbling block that brought down the national unity government last March.

The proposal, which split Likud and Labor, was for preliminary talks between Israelis and Palestinians about how the elections would be conducted and who would be eligible to vote.

GAZA PULLOUT IN TWO YEARS

President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt offered to host the talks in Cairo, but Likud refused.

Levy apparently believes Israel should have some definite ideas ready when the situation in the Gulf is finally settled.

Meeting with visiting Jewish leaders from Britain on Tuesday, Levy presented a five-point approach to peace in the Middle East:

*Ending the state of war between the Arab countries and Israel.

*Inspection of the arms race in the region.

*Negotiations between the Arab states and Israel.

*Negotiations on a solution to the Palestinian problem.

*Developing regional projects in the fields of energy, water resources, agriculture and science.

The foreign minister’s ideas coincided with a move by opposition Knesset members Amnon Rubinstein of the Center-Shinui faction, Ran Cohen of the Citizens Rights Movement and several dovish Labor Party members to introduce legislation that would have Israel withdraw from the Gaza Strip within two years.

Although the initiative was widely discussed and supported by petitions signed by reserve soldiers who just completed tours of duty in the Gaza Strip, political observers gave it no chance of passing given the present political constellation.

Meanwhile, the current president of the U.N. General Assembly, Guido de Marco, who is also foreign minister of Malta, had an unplanned talk with Levy on Thursday on the Gulf situation, according to Israel Radio.

De Marco arrived here Wednesday on a controversial visit to examine the condition of Palestinian refugees.

ISRAEL DISPLEASED WITH VISIT

Political sources in Jerusalem expressed displeasure with the visit and expressed concern that it could be interpreted as an implementation of the Dec. 20 Security Council resolution, which gave the secretary-general the mandate to brief the Security Council on the conditions of the Palestinians.

But de Marco rejected the idea that his trip somehow linked the Palestinian issue with the Gulf crisis.

In an interview Thursday with Israel Radio, de Marco said he thought his mission was “timely, because the two matters are completely different.

“We have to keep no linkage between the two, and besides, I don’t want any linkage between the two. I don’t want to be inhibited by the Gulf crisis into looking into matters which happened to the Palestinian refugees,” de Marco said.

The General Assembly president was forced to cancel a tour of the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip on Thursday after serious clashes erupted between stone-throwing residents and Israeli soldiers.

NEXT STORY