U.S. Encouraged by Israeli, Jordanian Stance on Talks
U.S. officials say they are encouraged by the pragmatic attitude toward Middle East peace talks shown by Jordan and Israel, despite Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s unenthusiastic response Monday to King Hussein’s latest peace proposal.
One official said privately that Hussein, during his visit to Washington last week, abandoned many of the conditions that Arab leaders usually attach to possible negotiations with Israel.
“The talk was all about what needs to be done to get negotiations started,” the official said. “In the past, the focus has been on trying to predetermine the outcome of the talks, and that has never gotten anywhere.”
The government of Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has demonstrated its pragmatism, the official said, by trying to keep the door open to possible negotiations.
By contrast, the governments of former Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, which held power from 1977 until last September, stifled any chance for negotiations by their often-stated determination to retain Israeli control of the occupied West Bank of the Jordan River as well as the Gaza Strip.
Nevertheless, Rabin--in Washington to confer with President Reagan and Pentagon officials--reacted negatively to Hussein’s suggestion of Jordanian-Israeli negotiations under the “umbrella” of an international conference that would include the Soviet Union.
In a speech to the National Press Club, Rabin dismissed talk of an international framework and said, “Peace should be established by direct negotiations between the parties.”
‘Who Needs It?’
He said anyone who would invite Moscow to play a more active role in the Middle East “has to be totally unaware of Soviet policies in the region.” Those policies, he said, have been designed to create tension rather than the hope for peace, and he asked, “Who needs it?”
The U.S. official admitted that the two sides remain very far apart on substance. But for the time being, Washington prefers to concentrate on procedural matters, hoping to bring Peres and Hussein together for talks before Peres’ mandate runs out or the Jordanian monarch gives up on the chances for a negotiated solution.
Under the terms of the agreement between Peres’ Labor alignment and the Likud bloc headed by Shamir, Peres will relinquish the prime minister’s post to Shamir, whose views are much more hard-line, late next year. Labor and Likud finished in a near dead heat in last year’s elections.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Friday that the United States hopes to meet soon with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that would probably include people with close ties to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
On Monday, the U.S. official said the United States would agree to such a meeting because it would be limited to procedural matters and ways of getting the parties to the negotiating table. He said the session probably would take place in Amman, Jordan, eliminating the need to issue U.S. visas to the Palestinian delegates. The United States previously opposed such a meeting when the Arab side wanted to discuss substance instead of procedure.
Rabin, however, said Israel remains cool to any sort of meeting between the United States and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. “After all,” he said, “the war is not between Jordan and the United States.”