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Soviets Testing Israeli Reaction to Recent Statements by Gorbachev

April 19, 1988
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The Soviet Union seems to be sounding out Israel’s response to the conciliatory tone recently adopted by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Maariv reported Sunday that a ranking member of the Soviet delegation to the United Nations in New York asked a member of Israel’s U.N. delegation whether Israel has been receiving Gorbachev’s signals of a more flexible Soviet stance in the Middle East peace process.

He was referring to Gorbachev’s remarks to Yasir Arafat in Moscow last week in which the Soviet leader told the visiting Palestine Liberation Organization chief that he should take Israel’s security interests into account. The story was covered extensively by Tass, the Soviet news agency.

Tass also reported that Gorbachev is very much aware that the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council would have only an advisory role at the proposed international conference for Middle East peace.

When queried about these statements, the Israeli delegate replied that while Israel is aware of them, messages of that kind should be conveyed directly to Jerusalem, Maariv reported.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who favors the international peace conference as means of launching Israeli-Arab negotiations, said that it is up to King Hussein of Jordan to select a negotiating partner.

Jordan can negotiate with Israel or with the PLO, Peres told the Commercial and Industrial Club last week. If Israel misses the opportunity for dialogue with Hussein, Arafat will become the only negotiating partner left to the king, Peres said.

But the PLO has presented tough terms for a settlement. It reportedly is demanding its own passports, currency, flag and diplomatic representation, as well as rotation of leadership of the planned federation with Jordan.

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