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Egyptian Ideas on Peace Plan Put Likud and Labor at Odds

September 13, 1989
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A confrontation between Labor and Likud seems to be brewing over the 10-point paper offered by Egypt to advance the Israeli peace initiative.

Shimon Peres, who is Labor Party leader and vice premier, sees merit in the Egyptian proposals. He said Sunday that they were close to Israel’s ideas.

But Likud leaders, including Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, depict the Egyptian paper as being in conflict with the Israeli plan for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The elections are intended to choose Palestinian representatives from the territories with whom Israel would negotiate on Palestinian self-rule and eventually the territories’ future status.

Peres said Tuesday that if the Palestinians accept the principle of elections, there is no reason not to begin talks with them immediately.

He said he was not suggesting talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization but with local leaders, who could “consult with whomever they wish.”

Shamir initially presented the peace initiative in broad terms, insisting that its details were for the negotiators to work out.

The Egyptian ideas, which seem to have sparked interest in Washington, are specific.

Basically, Cairo says, the elections must be part of an ongoing process that eventually will encompass the principle of “land for peace,” a concept at odds with Likud party dogma.


On the tactical level, the Egyptians propose that Arab residents of East Jerusalem be allowed to participate in the elections, one reason being that many senior Palestinian activists live there.

Laborites are amendable to the idea, provided that the voting takes place outside the Jerusalem municipal boundaries.

Likud is opposed, because it feels it would imply that Jerusalem is disputed and negotiable territory.

Shamir has signaled that he is prepared to be flexible on the participation of East Jerusalem residents, if President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt acquiesces to his longstanding demand for a summit meeting between them.

The United States reportedly has been trying to persuade the moderate Arab states and the PLO to support the Egyptian proposals.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said Tuesday that the United States continues to “encourage all parties to find ways to launch an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue. To the extent that the 10 points can be helpful in that regard, we welcome Egypt’s effort.”

The Egyptian ideas presumably were high on the agenda of talks Mubarak held in Cairo this week with PLO leader Yasir Arafat.

The semi-official Egyptian newspaper Al Ahram reported Tuesday that Arafat had agreed to accept the Egyptian points “in principle.”

Arafat’s key aide, Bassam Abu Sharif, said in a French radio interview Monday that he was prepared to go to Israel immediately to negotiate them with Labor Party leaders, an offer Shamir’s aides reportedly described Tuesday as “cold-blooded chutzpah.”

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