Mubarak Willing to Visit Israel; Shamir Is Pleased
Israel’s new government responded positively Sunday to a tentative offer by Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak to visit Israel for the first time and try to get long-paralyzed Middle East peace talks in motion.
“I would be very happy to receive him (Mubarak) in Israel,” Shamir said on Israel Television. “I cannot say that there will be full agreement between us, but I assume that we can advance the peace process.”
Shamir added that he would be glad “to enter into a detailed discussion aimed at encouraging . . . the peace process” and added: “I know President Mubarak is interested in making a great effort, and I am sure if we meet and we hold discussions, we will arrive at positive results.”
Shamir’s remarks followed news of Mubarak’s willingness to come to Jerusalem, published in a newspaper in Kuwait. “If this visit would lead to solving the problem and it would lead to establishing a just settlement . . . I am ready,” Mubarak told the newspaper Al Anba on Saturday. “But I do not go anywhere unless I am sure there is a positive result. It is not a matter of empty movements.”
Officials at the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Israel’s ambassador to Cairo had been ordered to inquire whether Mubarak’s comments indicated a “practical” willingness to come. They noted that the official Egyptian news service MENA republished the president’s remarks, an indication that his words were considered valid.
But, the officials cautioned, Mubarak’s apparent insistence that some result be guaranteed in advance suggested that he was setting conditions for the journey. In the past, Mubarak has insisted that Israel agree to attend international peace talks on the Middle East before he would pay a visit. Shamir has long opposed such talks.
Nonetheless, Mubarak’s offer set off a flutter of enthusiasm among Israeli officials, who felt that the move might impel Israel to come up with a clear line on peace talks. “We are all feeling the pressure to change the momentum,” said a Foreign Ministry official.
Israel’s new government, a coalition between Shamir’s hawkish Likud Party and the more dovish Labor Party of former Foreign Minister and now Finance Minister Shimon Peres, met in a Cabinet session for the first time Sunday.
For the past several months, Israeli politicians have been bogged down in an election campaign and then in the arduous process of building a governing coalition. In the meantime, the Palestine Liberation Organization has embarked on a steady diplomatic offensive that culminated in the recent decision by the Reagan Administration to break a 13-year ban on talks with PLO officials. Israel reacted defensively, with oft-repeated refusals to talk with the PLO on the grounds that it remains a terrorist organization.
On Sunday night, Shamir repeated a pledge that he would soon unveil his own peace initiative, but he gave no details.
The Jerusalem Post reported today that his ideas revolve around some variation of the 1978 Camp David Accords signed between Israel and Egypt. The accords outline a vague autonomy plan for Palestinians who live under Israeli occupation. Egypt has called the plan outdated and has recognized a PLO-declared independent Palestinian state.
Israeli Foreign Ministry officials said that unlike previous offers to let Palestinians choose their own delegates to peace talks, Shamir would consider holding elections in the occupied territories only after talks were concluded with neighboring Arab countries, including Jordan and Egypt, within the framework of the Camp David agreement.
In his television interview, Shamir seemed to allude to this plan. “The first thing that will be done after signing the autonomy agreement will be to have elections for an administrative council that will administrate life in the area,” Shamir said. “This will become the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian Arabs.”
Mubarak succeeded Anwar Sadat following Sadat’s 1981 assassination. Sadat had signed the 1979 peace treaty with Israel. Unlike Sadat, who shook up the Middle East status quo by visiting Israel, Mubarak has never traveled to the neighboring Jewish state. Since 1986, he has met twice with then-Foreign Minister Peres but has pointedly turned down Shamir’s requests to see him.