Rabin’s First Order of Business is Preparing for Visit by Baker

The new Israeli government has plunged into intensive preparations for the visit here next week of U.S. Secretary of State James Baker.

Baker’s visit, announced immediately after the new government took office, is intended to quicken the pace of the peace process and lay the groundwork for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s talks with President Bush in Maine next month.

Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres consulted alone Thursday morning, and later both men conferred with their respective aides to draw up working papers for the meetings with Baker.

According to reports from Washington, Baker is anxious to produce the kind of tangible progress that would accelerate the conclusion of an autonomy accord with the Palestinians and at the same time boost the Republican administration’s re-election prospects.

According to the mass-circulation Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, elements of a possible “deal” under discussion in Washington include:

* An Israeli settlement freeze. There would be discussions on the definition of “security settlements” and the pace of “natural growth” requiring ongoing building in existing settlements.

* American assent to furnish at least part of Israel’s longstanding request for loan guarantees.

* An Israeli commitment to hold elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip at a fixed date early in 1993.

* An Israeli commitment to embark on symbolic troop withdrawals from the territories in exchange for Palestinian cessation of intifada violence.

* Israeli and Syrian commitments to an initial disengagement of forces on the Golan Heights, in which each side would pull back armored units to a depth of some 10 miles.

*Suspension by the Arab states of their secondary and tertiary boycott against Israel.

* Talks on the involvement of Saudi clerics in the running of A1-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem, on behalf of the Moslem states.

MUBARAK SEEKING MEETING

The daily Ma’ariv, meanwhile, reported Wednesday that Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has proposed through diplomatic channels that he hold a summit with Rabin before the new premier’s U.S. visit.

Mubarak, who steadfastly refused to meet with former Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, is said to want to demonstrate Egypt’s desire to intensify its own involvement in the peace process in the wake of Israel’s change of government.

But other Arab leaders are not so eager to accept Rabin’s invitation to Jerusalem, extended in a speech Monday to the new Knesset.

In Amman, Foreign Minister Kamel Abu-Jaber was quoted Wednesday as saying that King Hussein would not consider such a visit until Israel agreed to a plan to withdraw from the administered territories.

And in Beirut, Foreign Minister Fares Bouez expressed pique at the fact that Baker had no plans to stop in Lebanon and said he would refuse to meet with the secretary of state abroad.

Baker is scheduled to arrive Sunday in Israel and will make stops in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan.

NEXT STORY