WORLD

Shamir stands firm

JOHN BIERMAN March 28 1988
WORLD

Shamir stands firm

JOHN BIERMAN March 28 1988

Shamir stands firm

ISRAEL

President Ronald Reagan was careful to point out that Israel’s hard-line prime minister, Yitzhak Shamir, did not use the word “no” in his White House discussions last week on the U.S. peace plan for the Middle East. But Shamir did—in his own words—express “strong reservations” about the international conference, which is at the heart of the U.S. proposal and which, he said, was “not conducive to peace.” In fact, before flying to Washington for a series of meetings with U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and a two-hour talk with Reagan, Shamir had said that the only element in the plan with which he agreed was the signature of the man who proposed it—Shultz. And as Shamir left Washington, senior state department officials said that there seemed to be little chance of the plan’s acceptance.

After the four-day visit the two leaders appeared to be resolute in their positions — Reagan still firmly supporting the plan, Shamir equally determined to block it. But Washington continued its attempts to persuade other countries of the plan’s merits. At week’s end, the state department dispatched special envoy Philip Habib to the Middle East to discuss the plan with the leaders of Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco. And in an interview with Reuters news agency, Shultz denied that his plan was dead. “It’s the only game in town,” he said.

For his part, Reagan pledged—as Shamir stood at his side after their talks—that “the United States will not slice this initiative apart and will not abandon it.” He added: “Those who say ‘No’ to the U.S. plan —and the prime minister has not used this word—need not answer to us. They’ll need to answer to themselves and their people.” But Reagan also promised that “no wedge will ever be driven between” Israel and the United States—implying that U.S. aid to Israel, currently worth $3.75 billion a year, was not in question.

Although Shamir has said repeatedly that he rules out an international conference and the surrender of the

West Bank and Gaza Strip, occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six Day War, his coalition government—and his country as a whole—is deeply divided on the issue. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and his Labor Party, who share power with Shamir and his hard-line Likud bloc, support the U.S. plan. So do many Jews in the Diaspora, among them seven leading Jewish intellectu-

als in Britain and the United States— including British chief rabbi Lord Jacobovits and Nobel Prize-winning U.S. novelist Saul Bellow—who issued a joint statement of support last Friday. Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet was expected to take a vote on the issue this week, and the question seemed certain to be the central issue in an Israeli general election later this year.

The Shultz plan, which has been harshly criticized by Jordan, Syria and the Palestinian leadership, calls for an international conference next month under the auspices of the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council—the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain, France and China. The conference would provide an umbrella for direct negotiations between Israel and a joint JordanianPalestinian delegation, but would not have the power to impose a settlement. The direct Arab-Israel talks, to begin by December, would attempt to settle the future status of the occupied West Bank and Gaza within a three-year

deadline. While those negotiations were in progress, the'1.5 million people of the territories would enjoy limited autonomy.

When Shamir was in Washington last week, Israel’s campaign to restore order in the occupied territories moved into a new phase. The Israelis severed phone links between the territories and the outside world, banned travel between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, stopped fuel supplies to the West Bank and put Gaza under a 10 p.m.-to-3 a.m. curfew. They also refused to let West Bank residents cross

into Jordan without a certificate showing that they had paid their taxes. The purpose of those measures, said Israeli Defence Minister Yitzhak Rabin, was to “integrate methods of economic punishment in addition to the other means of punishment.” But as moderate Palestinian Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem pointed out, if moderate Palestinians could not go to work because there was no fuel for them to travel, they would soon “join the people on the streets throwing stones.” Indeed, it was already clear that the new measures were doing nothing to abate the violence. On the 100th day of the uprising last Friday, two more Palestinians were shot dead in fresh disturbances—bringing the total to at least 99 so far—while 25 were wounded. And the clandestine Unified National Leadership of the Uprising issued a call for a “Day of Fierce Confrontation” this Monday.

-JOHN BIERMAN with IAN AUSTEN in Washington and ERIC SILVER in Jerusalem

JOHN BIERMAN

IAN AUSTEN

ERIC SILVER