Peres offers peace proposals at UN
United Nations, N.Y.
Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres has made a new, high-profile effort to give the stalled Middle East peace process some forward momentum. But the Peres proposals, outlined to the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, are likely to be seen as very one-sided by much of the Arab world -- not least since they plainly exclude the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). Most Arab delegations (except Egypt) did not even hear the Peres plan, having walked out of the UN assembly hall.
Nor are the proposals likely to appeal to Peres's coalition partners. The nationalistic Likud is adamantly opposed to the sort of territorial compromise envisaged in the Peres plan.
Nonetheless, in the words of one Israeli official, ``the speech may not constitute a dramatic breakthrough, but it certainly will move the process forward another step.''
Mr. Peres was unusually specific in proposing that ``small working teams should begin setting an agenda for peace talks between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation within 30 days.''
The Israeli leader said that the state of war which has existed between Israel and Jordan since 1948 ``should be terminated immediately.'' Israel, he went on, ``declares this readily, in the hope that King Hussein is willing to reciprocate this step.''
The Jordanian King has long maintained that Mideast peace talks should be held within the framework of an international conference under UN auspices -- a position Israel has up to now resisted. In an apparent concession to the King's position, Mr. Peres said that the ``permanent members of the Security Council may be invited to support the initiation of these negotiations.''
But the Israeli prime minister added an immediate caveat: ``That those who confine their diplomatic relations to one side of the conflict exclude themselves from such a role.'' Peres previously has said that until the Soviet Union restored diplomatic ties with Israel and China established them, both countries were unsuitable sponsors for peace talks.
The prime minister repeated his call for direct negotiations ``between states'' to be based on UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338 ``and on willingness to entertain suggestions proposed by other participants.'' The UN resolutions call on Israel to withdraw from occupied territories in exchange for recognition of its right to exist.
But Peres said that ``if necessary, these negotiations may be initiated with the support of an international forum, as agreed upon by the negotiating states.''
Peres also said that the ``objective of these negotiations is to reach peace treaties between Israel and the Arab states, as well as to resolve the Palestinian issue.''
In an indirect reference to the PLO, he said that the Jordanian-Palestinian delegation to talks should consist of delegates ``that represent peace, not terror.''
Peres gave what he described as a ``possible blueprint for implementation'' that included the statement that ``negotiations may produce intermediate as well as permanent arrangements. They may deal with the demarcation of boundaries as well as the resolution of the Palestinian problem. The Camp David accords provide a possible basis for the attainment of these objectives.''
Peres's reference to ``intermediate arrangements,'' Israeli sources say, referred to the possibility of establishing a Camp David-type autonomy or a joint Jordanian-Israeli administration of the territories while talks on their ultimate status were under way.
The Camp David accords were signed by Egypt and Israel in 1978. They formed the basis for the first and only treaty between Israel and an Arab nation. They called for an interim arrangement of Palestinian autonomy for five years in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip before the final status of the territories was to be decided. However, the autonomy talks between Egypt and Israel failed to attract King Hussein or the Palestinians, and eventually broke down completely.
Peres seems to have been emboldened both by his warm reception last week by President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz and by Hussein's recent moves, which the Israelis say show he is distancing himself from the PLO.