JERUSALEM (Dec. 30)
Conceding little chance it will be accepted, Israel has nevertheless proposed again to the United States that the dates be staggered when bilateral peace talks resume in Washington next week.
This time, however, the Jerusalem government is split. The request, reportedly made through the Prime Minister’s Office, was not endorsed by Foreign Minister David Levy or his aides.
The suggestion was rejected by Americans and Arabs alike when Israel first raised it in early December.
The Israelis themselves backed down, and the Washington round of talks with Syria, Lebanon and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation started simultaneously on Dec. 10.
Israel’s purpose has been to accentuate the distinctions among the three sets of talks in order to avoid as much as possible the image of an international conference.
The talks recessed on Dec. 18 and were to reconvene on Jan. 7.
Israel has now proposed that only the talks with the Jordanian-Palestinian group resume on Jan. 7. The talks with the Lebanese would begin the next day, but those with the Syrians not until six days later.
Israel’s policy-making Inner Cabinet was scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the instructions to be given the Israeli team with respect to offering the Palestinians autonomy.
During the December round in Washington, Israelis and Palestinians were unable to agree on the most fundamental procedural matters. As a result, they met in the State Department corridors instead of the conference room assigned them.
But optimism was expressed here that in the next round, procedural differences will be resolved by some adroit maneuver and substantive talks on autonomy will begin.