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With PLO Seeking U.S. Assurances Too Shamir is Reconsidering His Demands

November 13, 1989
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir appears to be backing away from some of the assurances he had been seeking from the United States regarding U.S. Secretary of State James Baker’s five-Point proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian dialogue.

At the same time, the Palestine Liberation Organization is pressing the United States for assurances of its own that conflict with those sought by Israel, Cabinet ministers were informed Sunday.

That means the Bush administration will have to use adroit if not circumlocutory language in framing the assurances if it is to reconcile the positions of both sides.

Shamir, now scheduled to meet President Bush in Washington on Wednesday, had already backed off from his original demand that the five-point plan be modified to reflect Israeli concerns.

Last week, he persuaded the Inner Cabinet of senior ministers to accept Baker’s five points, on the “understanding” that certain assurances would be forthcoming.

That may have been the price Shamir had to pay for the belated White House invitation announced Thursday evening, less than a week before the meeting.

The prime minister may now have gone even further. In weekend interviews with the news media, Shamir indicated that Israel would be satisfied with less than all six of the assurances he had requested.

Washington, in any event, has made clear it cannot satisfy all of them.

Shamir refused a request by Labor Party ministers Sunday for a full-scale foreign policy debate prior to his departure for the United States. He maintained there was nothing to talk about, since the government’s position is clear.


One assurance is that Israel would in no way find itself negotiating with the PLO, directly or indirectly.

In that connection, Israel wants an understanding that it need not talk to a Palestinian delegation of which it does not approve.

Furthermore, Israel insists that the dialogue must be confined to the procedures for holding Palestinian elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

But the Cabinet was told Sunday that the PLO is also seeking Washington’s assurance that it will select the Palestinian delegation.

The PLO also wants the United States to reiterate its acceptance of the principle of land for peace, and it wants a free hand to raise any issue at the dialogue.

Observers are predicting that Shamir will face some tough talk in Washington.

Health Minister Ya’acov Tsur, a leading Laborite, warned of another pitfall. He observed that the historic developments in East Germany and other Soviet satellite states may very well divert American interest away from its current efforts to help the conflicting parties in the Middle East engage in dialogue.

Shamir apparently was not offended by the long wait he had for Bush’s invitation.

According to unconfirmed reports, a close aide advised him to show displeasure by not accepting. But the prime minister rejected such counsel.

In an Israel Television interview Sunday, Shamir said whether or not the invitation had been delayed was now “a thing of the past, and I am looking ahead.”

He acknowledged differences with the United States, but said he did not expect a confrontation in his talks with Bush and other top officials Wednesday.

Sources close to him said he plans to recall with gratitude Bush’s personal role, as vice president, in helping the Jewish exodus from Ethiopia in the winter of 1984-85.

Acknowledgment of that help is considered appropriate in light of Ethiopia’s recent decision to re-establish diplomatic ties with Israel.

While in the United States, Shamir will address the 58th General Assembly of the Council of Jewish Federations in Cincinnati on Thursday. He will meet next week with Jewish leaders in New York.

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