Washington’s renewed efforts to breathe some life into Israel’s flagging peace initiative has created new friction between Labor and Likud and also within high echelons of Likud.
Israel, at the same time, is mounting a diplomatic campaign to forestall the prospect of a U.S. visa being granted to Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat, so he can come to New York to address the United Nations General Assembly.
Deputy Foreign Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who ranks high in the Likud, departed for the United States on Tuesday and was to be in Washington next week for meetings with Bush administration officials.
His visit, which was planned some time ago, is now expected to focus on the Arafat visa issue, which could be linked to the latest U.S. peace move.
Specifically, Washington is reportedly trying to persuade moderate Arab states and the PLO to support a 10-point paper drawn up by Egypt regarding Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir’s proposal for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
American officials are said to be pledging that if the Arab states accept this position paper, Washington will press all sides to agree to hold the elections.
The Egyptian paper proposes that East Jerusalem Arabs be allowed to participate in the elections and that the referendum lead to negotiations based on the “land-for-peace” principle.
Both of these positions are unacceptable to Likud, though acceptable to Labor.
The fear in Likud circles is that if the U.S. efforts are successful and the PLO, succumbing to pressure from the United States and moderate Arab states, accepts the 10-point paper, President Bush would then accede to Arafat’s visa request.
SHAMIR REPORTED ANGRY AT ARENS
Likud ministers, Shamir among them, are said by reliable sources to be angry at Foreign Minister Moshe Arens for having engaged in separate discussions with the American and Egyptian ambassadors over the substance of the Egyptian position paper.
Arens, who is himself a Likud ally of Shamir’s, recently told the envoys that he personally rejects the participation of East Jerusalem residents in the elections, though this is not the position of the government as such, since the Labor half of the coalition supports it.
Labor’s only condition is that the actual voting take place outside the Jerusalem municipal boundaries.
But Shamir maintains that Israel need not consider any details whatever, unless and until the Arab side accepts in principle the Israeli initiative, which sees the elections as part of a two-phase negotiation process.
Shamir and other Likud ministers fault Arens for being drawn into a substantive discussion at this stage, especially since Arafat’s Al Fatah wing of the PLO was hostile toward the Israeli proposal in a statement issued at the end of its convention in Tunis last month.
Shamir points out, too, that the Egyptian position paper has never formally been submitted to Israel. That can soon become moot if the Americans are persuaded to transmit the Egyptian paper to Israel.
President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt is scheduled to visit Washington later this month.
SWEDISH OFFICIAL INTERVENING
Meanwhile, Swedish Foreign Minister Sten Anderssen is once again projecting himself into Middle East peacemaking, this time with a view to persuading the PLO to accept the Egytian paper, Ha’aretz reported Tuesday.
Anderssen is presently attending a conference of nonaligned nations in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, together with Arafat and a number of Arab heads of government.
Anderssen took a high-profile role in Arafat’s relatively conciliatory appearance at the United Nations in Geneva last December, and later took part of the credit for the PLO leader’s landmark meeting with a group of American Jewish activists headed by New York attorney Rita Hauser.
It was in the wake of those verbal concessions by the PLO chief that the Reagan administration decided to launch an official, though low-level, dialogue with the PLO.
Anderssen is now reportedly signaling that if the PLO were to go another step forward, the United States would be prepared to upgrade its dialogue with the PLO.
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.