WASHINGTON (Feb. 2)
The Reagan administration continued its silence Tuesday about the recent U.S. Middle East peace initiative, with Secretary of State George Shultz declining to be more specific with the House Foreign Affairs Committee than to note that it focuses more on substance than procedure.
While it has been widely reported that the initiative calls for interim local autonomy measures for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, there has been no official description from spokespersons at the State Department or White House.
Speaking Tuesday at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Shultz would only say, “We’ve had so much emphasis on process that substance has got too little attention.”
He said the initiative arose from the “greater willingness to think afresh” by parties to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The new, substantive approach is a “new blend of ideas that have been around,” Shultz said, speculating that it “might relax peoples’ attitudes about procedures.”
On the question of the U.S. position toward Israel’s handling of riots in the territories, Shultz explained that the United States vetoed Monday’s U.N. resolution criticizing Israel’s handling of the crisis because an affirmative U.S. vote would not have been “productive.”
The secretary explained that the administration is trying to resolve its differences with Israeli policy “directly” with the Israelis.
He did note the U.S. opposition to Israel’s deportation of four Palestinians by saying “those people belong in jail, not deported.”
He also used the occasion to praise Israel for having a “vibrant democracy,” noting the massive protests within the Jewish state opposing Israel’s methods of riot control. “Those voices have been speaking,” the secretary said.
Shultz also announced that Richard Murphy, assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs, will soon travel to the region.