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Success of Shultz’s Second Round May Depend on Hussein and Shamir

March 4, 1988
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As Secretary of State George Shultz returned to Israel Thursday night to resume his Middle East shuttle diplomacy, questions were being raised here as to whether he will have more success with his peace plan now than he had during the four days he spent in Israel last weekend.

Observers here said much depends on the outcome of Shultz’s meeting Thursday with King Hussein of Jordan in London. Their meeting there Tuesday apparently was inconclusive.

Hussein insists on an international conference to serve as the framework for negotiations with Israel, an idea flatly rejected by Premier Yitzhak Shamir and his Likud faction. Some flexibility on the part of the Jordanian ruler could result in some change in Shamir’s hard-line position, the observers said.

But so far there is no evidence of any softening on the part of Shamir. He is due to make an official visit to Washington beginning March 14, at which time he will probably be asked for his final response to the American peace plan. If he rejects it, pressure will mount in Israel for early elections.

Shamir already has gone on record in favor of early elections, but no decision is expected until he returns from Washington.

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Thursday that he, too, favored advancing the election date, if the alternative was the end of the peace process.

“If we move up the elections, we have to destroy the current government,” Peres told the Israel Press Club in Tel Aviv Thursday.


“If the reason for this is to sabotage the peace process, then it’s a double evil. If we have reached the point where we have to choose between early elections and giving up the peace process — I am for early elections,” Peres said.

He said he welcomed Shultz’s return to the region and expressed regret that the United States had not been more active in the peace process a year ago.

“But then, Yitzhak Shamir sent Moshe Arens to Shultz to tell him not to come,” Peres said Had the peace process begun last spring, “we would have prevented a lot of riots, a lot of trouble,” the foreign minister said.

Arens, a Herut minister without portfolio and a former Israeli ambassador to the United States, did visit Washington last year. So did Laborite Simcha Dinitz, also a former ambassador to the United States.

Each explained the positions of their respective parties to Reagan administration officials. Arens urged the Americans not to support an international conference, while Dinitz argued the opposite.

Shultz is expected to spend Friday in Jerusalem in talks with Shamir and Peres and will fly to Amman and Cairo Saturday and Sunday.

He is also expected to make a second visit to Damascus.

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