JERUSALEM (Jul. 22)
In another sign of the Labor government’s more flexible stance on the peace process, Israel now appears to be ready to accept the participation of “diaspora Palestinians” in all five working groups of the multilateral talks on regional issues.
A strong hint to this effect was made by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in a television interview Wednesday night.
“We will not agree to the (Palestinian) ‘right of return’ becoming an agenda issue,” Peres declared.
But he said the Palestinians’ demand that representatives from outside the administered territories be allowed to participate in the negotiations is a problem that could be “overcome by technical means.”
The previous Israeli government boycotted two of the five working groups — on refugees and on economic planning — because the United States and Russia invited diaspora Palestinians to take part in them.
Jerusalem explained at the time that the participation of representatives from outside the administered territories implied a certain recognition of the “right of return” and contravened the framework agreed upon at the opening peace conference in Madrid.
Washington argued at the time that the Madrid framework applied only to the bilateral talks and not to the multilaterals.
Peres said in the interview that there is “no need” to reopen the related issue of the participation of Jerusalem Palestinians in the talks, since the composition of the delegations had been agreed upon.
“There is no need to negotiate retroactively,” the foreign minister said.