WASHINGTON (Nov. 19)
The seventh round of Middle East peace talks here ended Thursday on a sour note and without a clear commitment by all parties to return to Washington for a new round next month.
The Israeli delegation reported frustration that hopes for meaningful progress had not been met.
In the Israelis’ final briefing, spokesman Yossi Gal reported there had been an “all or nothing attitude that makes compromise impossible” and that “direct dialogue” had been “subordinated to public posturing.”
At the same time, the Palestinians protested to the State Department that the Israeli proposal for Palestinian self-government is not a serious one.
A Palestinian press aide said the proposal “legitimizes the occupation in another form” and creates a system of apartheid.
The Israelis’ sense of frustration may have been heightened by the fact that Thursday was the 15th anniversary of the historic visit to Jerusalem by the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin marked the occasion in Jerusalem by telephoning Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and telling him that the Sadat visit had opened a new chapter in the history of Israel and Egypt.
He also thanked Mubarak and the Egyptian people for the courage and determination to continue the peace, thereby demonstrating to the other Arab nations how peace can benefit all nations.
Mubarak pledged to Rabin he would do all he could to support the peace process, according to reports from Jerusalem.
The exception to the bleak picture in Washington was the progress made between Israel and the Jordanians. The parties reached an agreement on an agenda and started what they called serious, substantive discussions on water, energy and the environment.
Tension in the Israeli-Lebanese talks was eased by a de-escalation of the violence that had engulfed the border between the two countries, which had threatened to derail the talks altogether.
The talks broke up Thursday with the Lebanese agreeing to review an Israeli proposal for meetings between the Israeli and Lebanese military personnel to discuss security along their border.
Meanwhile, the talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians bogged down over the two sides’ inability to agree on arrangements for limited Palestinian self- government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Israeli spokesman Gal blamed Palestinian intransigence and a willingness to sacrifice “fertile discussion” for “futile declarations.”
The Palestinians, in turn, blamed the Israelis for offering proposals that were paltry.
“We cannot see anything in it that would change the status quo,” the Palestinian aide said Thursday. “They want a functional peace,” he said. “We want a just peace.”
Earlier in the week, he said the Palestinians in the territories would grow impatient without more results.
Gal said the Palestinians were unwilling to compromise and that they dismissed proposals as “insignificant” if they fell short of their expectations.
He stressed that under the framework for the talks established in Madrid more than a year ago, the current talks represent the first phase and are not intended to resolve the “final status” of Palestinian autonomy.
“This all or nothing (approach) will lead to nothing for all,” he said.
The Israelis were also disappointed with the talks with the Syrians, which they had hoped would result in an agreement of principles that would help guide the negotiation of a peace accord.
But the two parties were stuck in what Israeli negotiator Itamar Rabinovich called “the basic stalemate.”
The Syrians, he said, insist on full withdrawal from the Golan Heights as a “precondition to any further progress,” and “we cannot elaborate on the notion of withdrawal before we have a clear idea of what the Syrian concept of peace is.”
Arab strategic maneuvering is not the only challenge the Israeli negotiators are up against.
During the Israeli briefing Thursday, which is generally limited to accredited members of the press who pass through Israeli security, a member of the militant group Kahane Chai gained entry and burst into shouts of “Rabin is a traitor,” until he was hustled out by security personnel.
The group, whose name has been mentioned in connection with a grenade attack on an Arab market in Jerusalem earlier this week, rejects the idea of territorial concessions that Rabin has embraced.