JERUSALEM (Jul. 16)
Israel has dismissed a suggestion by the seven largest industrial democracies that it stop settlement-building in the administered territories as a “confidence-building” measure to advance the peace process.
Leaders of the seven major economic powers also called for an end to the Arab economic boycott of Israel in a communique released Tuesday at the conclusion of their summit meeting in London.
There was no official Israeli response to the communique. But political sources here insisted there is no connection between the two issues it raised.
Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the Arabs should not be rewarded with territory for changing their stance on the boycott.
Police Minister Ronni Milo told Israel Radio that both issues rightfully belong on the agenda of Arab-Israeli negotiations when they take place.
The Group of Seven called on Palestinians, the Arab nations and Israel to “adopt reciprocal and balanced confidence-building measures and to show the flexibility necessary to allow a peace conference to be convened.”
The seven countries are Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
They said they endorse the U.S. proposal “of a peace conference starting parallel and direct negotiations between Israel and representative Palestinians, on the one hand, and Israel and the Arab states, on the other.”
‘TERRITORY FOR PEACE’ MENTIONED
The conference should lead to a “comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, “and the principle of territory for peace,” the communique stated.
The notion of having a mutual suspension of settlement-building and the boycott was first proposed by Secretary of State James Baker during his earlier shuttle missions through the Middle East.
His goal was to reduce hostilities between the Arab governments and Israel while peace talks were taking place.
Neither the Arab governments nor Israel showed any interest in accepting such a trade-off.
In Washington, Jordan’s ambassador to the United States, Hussein Hammami, rejected that idea of lifting the boycott when asked Monday by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
“The boycott is a legitimate tool by international law in the conduct of policy by nations that are at war or are belligerent,” he said.
The envoy cited the ongoing U.S. economic boycotts of Cuba and Vietnam.
But “the settlements are illegitimate activity,” Hammami insisted, referring to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which outlines international standards for the treatment of civilians under wartime occupation.
Israel denies the applicability of the treaty to the administered territories, though it says it adheres to its humanitarian provisions.
“You cannot ask a nation to give up a legitimate tool in return” for something another country “shouldn’t even have started to begin with,” Hammami argued.
(JTA correspondent Howard Rosenberg in Washington contributed to this report.)