JERUSALEM (Feb. 2)
Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy, praised at Sunday’s Cabinet session for his diplomatic successes of the past two weeks, warned his colleagues of minefields on the road to peace, at least its multilateral phase.
Levy, who led the Israeli delegation at the multilateral conference on Middle East regional issues held in Moscow last week, is disturbed by the possibility that representatives of the Palestinian diaspora will be invited to join the working committees the conference has established to deal with specific regional issues.
He told his fellow ministers Sunday that the procedural issues in the peace process have to be agreed by consensus. “What we do not agree to will not come about,” he declared.
The United States, which is the driving force behind the current peace process, and the Russian republic, its co-sponsor, announced in Moscow that they would support the presence of diaspora Palestinians at future sessions of the working groups on refugee resettlement, meeting in Ottawa this spring, and the economic development group, which is to meet in Brussels.
That is clearly intended to compensate the Palestinians for refusing to accredit the delega tion they sent to Moscow, which included members of the diaspora community as well as residents of East Jerusalem.
The ground rules laid down for the Middle East peace process that began in Madrid last Oct. 30 stipulated that Israel would not have to negotiate with Palestinians except those residing in the West Bank or Gaza Strip.
Israel refuses to agree to a diaspora presence, on the grounds that the Palestinians could then demand that the “right of return” to lands lost during Israel’s War for Independence in 1948 be made an issue in the current talks.
Arab sources say that “right,” while never forfeited, would not be exercised. Instead, compensation for lost lands and property would become a negotiable issue in the peace talks.
LEVY CONGRATULATED BY SHAMIR
The Palestinians, who boycotted the Moscow conference when their enlarged delegation was refused seating, also reject the U.S.-Russian formula.
They insist diaspora Palestinians be included on all five working groups. The others are arms control, environmental issues and water resources.
Levy, meanwhile, was congratulated by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and other ministers for his historic trip to Beijing where, on Jan. 24, he and Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen signed a protocol establishing full diplomatic relations between their nations, on the ambassadorial level.
It was the culmination of a 40-year quest by Israel for normal diplomatic relations with the world’s most populous nation.
It was promptly followed by another diplomatic coup. when Levy was notified in Moscow that India was prepared to upgrade its low-level ties with Israel to the ambassadorial level.
The “walls of our isolation” are tumbling, Shamir said, and the nation fully appreciates this. But “we aren’t home and dry yet,” he cautioned. He warned against slackening Israel’s political efforts abroad.