Egypt Tries to Draw Israelis, Palestinians Together
THIS week it rained - indeed, poured - on Hosni Mubarak's diplomatic parade. Egypt's President Mubarak is attempting to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by offering 10 conditions that, if accepted, would facilitate elections in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. But a cloudburst of criticism has left acceptance of Egypt's conditions - a modification of an Israeli election proposal unveiled last spring - in doubt.
``They cannot help us,'' Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Wednesday of the Egyptian conditions, which were informally presented to Israel last July. The list, including a controversial land-for-peace formula adamantly opposed by Mr. Shamir, will be presented formally to Israel within a few days.
Meanwhile, Palestinian leaders have leveled criticism at the Egyptian conditions for sidestepping the issue of Palestinian self-determination.
``Clearly, many things will have to happen before the (Egyptian) plan gets off the ground,'' says one diplomatic source in Jerusalem.
Mubarak is reportedly planning to invite Israeli and Palestinian delegations to Cairo to attend a conference which would be the prelude to direct talks on how to conduct elections in the occupied territories.
Mubarak is expected to issue the invitation in an address before the United Nations General Assembly Sept. 29. The United States and the Soviet Union are also expected to be invited to provide superpower auspices for the conference.
Publicizing the conference proposal now is designed to rouse the peace process out a ``deep sleep'' prior to the Egyptian president's visit to Washington later this month, speculates the diplomatic source.
In Washington, Mubarak is expected to lobby the US to give the Palestine Liberation Organization chairman, Yasser Arafat, a visa to attend the UN General Assembly this fall as a means of winning PLO support for his 10 conditions.
In theory, inviting Israelis and a Palestinian delegation that Mubarak would name to a conference is a way around major substantive disagreements, since Palestinian attendance could be interpreted by Israel as acceptance of Israel's elections initiative; while Israel's attendance would be tantamount to acceptance of Egypt's 10 conditions.
The strength of such a highly unlikely compromise is that it would get Palestinians and Israelis into face-to-face negotiations rapidly. The weakness is that it would get them there without prior agreement on first principles, all but ensuring failure of the talks at the outset.
The Egyptian points, which have sparked lively disagreement within the Israeli government, will be discussed again today when Shamir meets with his senior ministers - Vice Premier Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin, and Foreign Minister Moshe Arens.
Mr. Peres has welcomed the points, without agreeing to all of them, as a basis for overcoming Palestinian objections to Israel's initiative. One is that they haven't seen its details. Shamir insists that Israel will discuss the details only after the concept of the initiative has first won the approval of one or more Arab parties.
Labor and Likud Party ministers have also fallen out over Egypt's reported suggestion that deported Palestinians be included in future negotiations along with residents of the West Bank and Gaza. Shamir opposes the inclusion of ``diaspora'' Palestinians as de facto PLO representatives. Labor ministers have said they would accept deportees in a Palestinian delegation.