Foreign Minister Shimon Peres insisted this week that his hopes for Middle East peace talks within the framework of an international conference have not been dampened by the obdurate stand taken at the Palestine National Council (PNC) meeting in a tightly-guarded hall some 12 miles outside Algiers.
Aides to the Foreign Minister said he will continue to pursue the idea of negotiations with a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation despite Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat’s renunciation of his 1985 accord with King Hussein and his apparent embrace of the most extreme terrorist groups in the name of Palestinian unity.
Peres briefed the Labor Party ministerial caucus on his intentions Tuesday night and made sure that his position was promptly conveyed to the media. According to a report in Davar Wednesday, Peres will bring his proposals before the Cabinet within 10 days. He is confident of American support, confident that an international conference will serve as a format for direct talks between Israel and all the parties concerned, Davar reported.
His aides said Peres is determined to go all-out over the conference issue, even if it means dissolution of the Labor-Likud unity coalition government. He believes the nation will back him in early elections.
MEETING SENDS CHILL THROUGH DIPLOMATIC CIRCLES
Nevertheless, events in Algiers where the 426-member PNC, the so-called Palestinian parliament in exile, is meeting for the first time since 1984, sent a chill through diplomatic quarters.
Arafat’s threat of stepped-up terrorist warfare against Israel, his stated goal of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital and his reconciliation with extremists such as George Habash and Naif Hawatmeh and the Syrian-backed PLO dissidents who drove his forces from Lebanon in 1984, cast a pall over peace prospects in the region.
Equally chilling was the demand by the PLO’s “foreign minister” Farouk Kaddoumi that the Camp David accords be cancelled and that Egypt return “to its proper place in the Arab world.” Speaking at the PNC Wednesday, he also insisted on special relations with Jordan, calling for a confederation of two independent states–Jordan and Palestine. Kaddoumi also urged the strengthening of the 21-member Arab League, from which Egypt was suspended after its peace treaty with Israel in 1979.
LIKUD’S POSITION SEEN AS VINDICATED
A pessimistic assessment of the situation was given in Congressional testimony in Washington Tuesday by Richard Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, who is regarded as the State Department’s top expert on the Middle East. (See separate story from Washington.)
Murphy’s views and the resurgent bellicosity in Algiers are seen as vindication of the Likud position that an international conference would imperil Israel and that it is useless to seek Palestinian negotiating partners.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir has been pounding these points home in a bitter public feud with Peres which some observers see as a calculated attempt to bring down the unity government. Shamir is said to be convinced that public opinion is overwhelmingly behind him and an election fought over the peace issue would result in a Likud victory.
Peres, meanwhile, was quoted as telling his Cabinet colleagues that “What happened in Algiers does not hurt peace prospects. We took into account (the need) to make progress toward peace without Arafat and without his Fatah because they are not interested in peace.”
He told Labor Party members here that “We will continue to strive for peace with Jordan, with the inhabitants of the administered areas and with other regional states. The chance of progress is very great.”
BROAD CONSENSUS ON PROCEDURES
According to Peres’ aides, consultations with the Soviet Union, the United States and the Jordanians resulted in a broad consensus on procedures for an international conference. Moscow now agrees on the need for direct one-on-one negotiations in regional subcommittees and agrees that the conference plenary will not be allowed to impose its will on the bilateral negotiations, the aides say.
Sources close to the Foreign Minister stressed that for all practical purposes, the peace process initially would be limited to a dialogue between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. The Israel-Egyptian peace treaty is holding satisfactorily and Syria is unlikely to attend peace talks, at least in their initial stage, the sources said.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.