Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Israeli Government Split on U.S. Peace Proposals

February 10, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The unity coalition government appeared divided Tuesday over a new American peace plan that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Richard Murphy is expected to present to Israeli leaders after he arrives here Tuesday evening.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, leader of the Labor Party, said the American plan was “still uncrystallized,” but he would support the new initiative, even though he did not agree with every idea included in it.

Sources close to Premier Yitzhak Shamir, leader of the Likud bloc, said Shamir would inform Murphy that he is opposed to any acceleration of the autonomy process in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. That reportedly is one of the key elements of the American plan, intended to come to grips with unrest in the territories.

Peres told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Tuesday that Shamir has rejected his proposal that they sit down together with Murphy to discuss the new American peace initiative. There was no immediate comment from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Haaretz reported Tuesday that the American plan includes an appeal to United Nations Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar to convene the five permanent members of the Security Council and the parties involved in the Middle East conflict, for an international opening in Geneva, to be followed by direct talks for an interim agreement and eventually a final peace settlement.

Haaretz said that this was part of an agreement reached at a meeting Peres had with King Hussein of Jordan in London last April. The newspaper, quoting Jordanian sources, said Hussein insists that part of the agreement be carried out.

The international opening would take place within the year, according to Haaretz, If Murphy’s talks with the various parties go well, the leaders of the two superpowers, President Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, will use the occasion of their next summit meeting in Moscow to call on all involved in the conflict to open peace talks.

Diplomats believe the key to success of the American move is the amount of pressure the Reagan administration exerts on Shamir when he visits Washington next month, the paper said.


In the aftermath of the Arab summit meeting hosted by Hussein in Amman last fall, the Jordanian ruler has demanded that negotiations with Israel must include Syria and Lebanon. Murphy has proposed that Syria participate in the peace initiative.

This may be why Murphy, the administration’s top troubleshooter in the Middle East, visited Syria as well as Saudi Arabia on his current mission to the region. He is coming to Israel directly from Damascus.

Murphy’s plans to visit Syria raised questions in Washington when his itinerary was announced last week. State Department policy had been to avoid high-level contacts with the government of Syrian President Hafez Assad because of its hard line toward Israel, its close relations with the Soviet Union and its complicity in international terrorism.

The United States has not officially disclosed its latest ideas for peace in the region. But some of the proposals were leaked over the weekend by high-level American sources, apparently members of Murphy’s entourage, since the information came from the Persian Gulf region, where Murphy was visiting at the time.

According to those sources, the Americans want the Israel Defense Force to withdraw from the main population centers of the West Bank and Gaza Strip this spring. Palestinian elections would follow early in the summer.

This would amount to a rapid acceleration of the autonomy process that originated with the 1978 Camp David accords. The Camp David agreement called for a five-year transition period, after which negotiations would determine the permanent status of the territories.

But according to the American plan, now emerging an international forum would be convened in December — right after the November general elections in the United States and Israel — to launch negotiations on the future of the territories. The participants would be Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.

Recommended from JTA