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Hopes Fade for Elections Plan, As PLO Insists on Role in Talks

December 5, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The high hopes of realizing hopes of realizing Israel’s plans for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip seem to be dwindling as winter approaches.

That is because the United States and Egypt have been unable to convince the Palestine Liberation Organization to step back and let the Palestinians in the territories name their own delegation for preliminary negotiations with Israel.

The PLO delivered a memorandum last Friday to the U.S. ambassador in Tunis, Robert Pelletreau, insisting that “no Palestinian delegation will come to the negotiating table without being named and announced by the PLO.”

The memo expressed “regret that the American response, from the beginning, ignores any role for the PLO in forming its (Palestinian) delegation to the dialogue” with Israel.

At the State Department, deputy spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday that Hakam Balawi, the PLO representative in Tunis, described the memorandum as unofficial when he delivered it.

In Israel, aides to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir expressed indifference to the PLO memo. “We are not interested in what the PLO says. We are only interested in Egypt’s response, and that has not yet reached Washington,” said one official in the Prime Minister’s Office.

Boucher said the United States is “looking forward to an official Egyptian reply” to Secretary of State James Baker’s five-point proposal for Israel-Egyptian negotiations.


After some public arm-twisting by Baker, Israel’s Inner Cabinet accepted Baker’s proposal with certain “assumptions,” including that the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue be limited to setting up the proposed elections and that the PLO be excluded from any part in the process.

There has not been as much arm-twisting of Egypt, at least in public. But the State Department has said that it would not address Egypt’s request for clarification on the five points until it accepts the proposal.

Egypt has not moved forward, presumably because it has not been able to convince the PLO to allow Cairo to name the Palestinian representatives itself.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has proposed a delegation that includes representatives from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and at least two Palestinians living outside the territories.

Boucher reiterated Monday that “we have never sought and we are not now seeking a PLO response to the five points.”

The State Department has maintained that its talks with the PLO in Tunis have been aimed at convincing the PLO not to block Palestinians in the territories from participating in the negotiations.

However, in the territories itself, the leadership of the Palestinian uprising, or intifada, issued a communique Sunday calling Baker’s plan part of a series of proposals designed to “annihilate” the PLO.


Meanwhile, there was some indication that President Bush may have asked Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in Malta over the weekend for Soviet help in bringing about the Israeli-Palestinian talks.

Gorbachev reported during a concluding news conference Sunday that he and the U.S. president had discussed the Middle East thoroughly.

“It seems to me we do have an understanding between us that we must do our very best, independently and together, to promote a solution to this problem,” he was quoted as saying.

Bush said that “it doesn’t require joint initiatives to solve the Middle East questions.” But he said the Soviet Union “is playing a constructive role” in the Middle East in Lebanon and “in West Bank questions.”

He added that the United States has not always felt that the Soviet role was constructive.

Under Gorbachev, the Soviets have been urging both the PLO and the Syrians to seek a political solution to the Middle East conflict.

(JTA correspondent Gil Sedan in Jerusalem contributed to this report.)

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