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Israel’s Inner Cabinet Votes 9-3 to Accept Baker’s Five-point Plan

November 6, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

The floundering peace process seemed to get back on track Sunday, when Israel’s Inner Cabinet voted 9-3 to accept U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s five-point proposal for a dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians.

Israel’s acceptance was made contingent “on the understanding” that the United States would soon provide assurances that would rule out any Israeli negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The decision represents a slight retreat by Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir from his earlier insistence that Israel’s acceptance be conditional on Baker’s plan meeting its concerns.

But it probably assures Shamir a White House meeting with President Bush later this month. And it is likely to keep the shaky Likud-Labor coalition government intact, at least for a while longer.

Shamir presented the new Israeli position to the Inner Cabinet as a compromise between Likud and Labor. It is “better to compromise at home than to make concessions abroad,” he told his colleagues, indicating his hope that the unity government has a new lease on life.

The compromise was the result of two meetings between Shamir and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens, representing Likud, and Vice Premier Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, for Labor.

They met Friday, at Peres’ home in northern Tel Aviv, and on Sunday, in Jerusalem.

A Key role was played by Cabinet Secretary Elyakim Rubinstein, who was given the task of formulating the joint positions to which Israel’s most senior ministers agreed.

The Laborites had made clear they were prepared to accept Baker’s points as originally formulated. The Likud ministers wanted ironclad U.S. guarantees.

The Israeli reservations were the subject of thee-way telephone diplomacy last week between Jerusalem and Washington, and Washington and Cairo, which has offered to host an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

Baker telephoned his Israeli and Egyptian counterparts on Nov. 1, before leaving for Australia, to suggest slight changes in his five-point plan. He then sent letters summarizing the changes to the two foreign ministers.


In Washington, State Department deputy spokesman Richard Boucher cautioned Friday against making too much of the fact that Baker had put his thoughts in writing. He said the secretary merely “summarized discussions they had and put them into perspective.”

He stressed the United States was not doing anything that could bring Israel into negotiations or dialogue with the PLO.

What the United States wants is a “dialogue between Israel and the Palestinians,” the State Department official said.

Shamir not only demanded the PLO be kept out, but insisted on U.S. guarantees that the dialogue would be limited to the modalities of the Palestinian elections.

But Peres and Rabin warned that to impose “conditions” would be tantamount to rejecting Baker’s proposals.

Eventually the four ministers agreed that Israel’s acceptance of the five points would be contingent upon an “understanding,” which is less absolute than a “condition.”

But the decision seems to spell another showdown between Shamir and hard-line ministers within his Likud bloc who oppose not only the Baker plan, but Shamir’s entire initiative for Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The three Inner Cabinet members who cast negative votes Sunday–Ariel Sharon, David Levy and Yitzhak Moda’i–warned of dire consequences for Israel. They want to convene the Likud Central Committee for a referendum on Shamir’s policies.

The prime minister is trying to convince them to wait until his return from the United States.

(JTA correspondent David Friedman in Washington contributed to this report.)

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