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Israel Sticking with ’89 Peace Plan, Offering No New Initiatives to Baker

March 11, 1991
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The Israeli Cabinet decided Sunday to stick to its May 1989 peace plan and offer no new initiatives at the present time.

The majority decision, announced after intensive deliberations all day Sunday by the full Cabinet and the policy-making Inner Cabinet, came on the eve of Secretary of State James Baker’s visit here.

Baker, on his first diplomatic junket through the Middle East in the immediate aftermath of the Persian Gulf war, was due to arrive Monday for a two-day visit, his first as secretary of state.

While the Israeli government agreed to stand by its two-year-old plan, calling for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip that would lead to negotiations for Palestinian autonomy, the ministers made clear Israel was not buying the land-for-peace formula strongly endorsed last week by President Bush.

That was indicated especially with respect to the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War and annexed in 1980.

“The Golan Heights is under Israeli sover- eignty. It is not a subject for negotiations,” Economics and Planning Minister David Magen told reporters after the Cabinet session.

Magen spoke in response to recent media speculation that Israel might be prepared to discuss the Golan in peace talks with Syria, especially since Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir insists on negotiations without preconditions.


According to Transport Minister Moshe Katsav, a Likud member of the Inner Cabinet, there will be “no backing away” from the 1989 plan, “even though Israel has emerged strengthened from recent events,” an apparent reference to the defeat of Iraq.

Katsav said Shamir and a “solid majority” of ministers dismissed objections to the peace plan by Cabinet hard-liners.

They included Likud’s Ariel Sharon; Yuval Ne’eman, leader of the Tehiya party, which favors annexation of the administered territories; and Rehavam Ze’evi, of the extremist Moledet party, which favors transfer of Arabs out of the territories entirely.

They oppose the idea of elections, claiming it would lead to a Palestinian state.

But according to Katsav, “we have no intention of changing our plan.”

The 1989 initiative was put together largely by Shamir and former Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin of the Labor Party, when Israel was governed by a Likud-Labor unity regime. The Palestinians were to elect representatives with whom Israel would negotiate over autonomy and eventually the final status of the territories.

Although the plan was favorably received in Washington, it foundered over Israel’s refusal to discuss plans for the elections with any Palestinians it considered even remotely linked to the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Israel remains adamant on that point and may not have to confront it, since the PLO has been discredited in much of the Arab world for supporting Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

Government sources indicated Sunday that if a credible alternative Palestinian leadership were to evolve, the elections could be dispensed with.

Israel also insists on parallel peace talks with its Arab neighbors, which, with the exception of Egypt, are technically still in a state of war with Israel.


That fits Baker’s announced two-track pursuit of the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. But he and President Bush insist that the foundation of these endeavors must be territorial compromise by Israel.

Foreign Minister David Levy was quoted by Cabinet sources as arguing during the Cabinet session that Israel should grasp this opportunity for peace and meet the U.S. effort with a forceful initiative. Similar views were attributed to two Likud moderates, Health Minister Ehud Olmert and Justice Minister Dan Meridor.

But Shamir is said to favor a “go-slow approach,” arguing that Israel has laid out a plan and that it is the Arabs who must now come forward and make peace.

Shamir was quoted Sunday night as saying that the United States had not yet “made demands of Israel which it cannot live with. But if there are such demands,” he added, “we shall stand firmly against them.

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