Shultz Urges Arabs-Israelis to Take Risks as Palestinians Shun Him
JERUSALEM (AP) _ Secretary of State George P. Shultz urged Arabs and Israelis on Sunday to ″dig in″ to find a way toward peace talks and accused Palestinian leaders who refused to meet with him of saying one thing but doing another.
″Just drifting is not good,″ Shultz told reporters. ″That’s also a course of action. It also has its risks and its problems.″
If the varous parties cannot find a workable formula for negotiations, they should ″dig in and try to think of some other way,″ said Shultz, who takes his Middle East peace mission to Cairo on Monday.
The news of the Palestinian boycott came earlier, as Shultz spoke to 300 academics at the Weizmann Institute in the western Israeli city of Rehovot. There, he also urged parties in the Middle East conflict to take chances on the path toward peace.
″No one helps the chances for peace by doing nothing,″ he said. ″Those who are reluctant to explore new ideas or even revisit old ones have an obligation to offer something different as an alternative to the status quo.″
Asked in Jerusalem if he was taking aim at Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who is cool to the idea of an international peace conference, Shultz said he had all parties, including the United States, in mind.
″It wasn’t a description of what I’ve run into here at all,″ Shultz said. ″Quite the contrary. I find an eagerness to discuss the peace process on all sides.″
On the other hand, he delivered a stiff lecture to Arab Palestinians who boycotted a meeting he planned with them to protest the closing of a Palestine Liberation Organization office in Washington.
″They have missed something in not taking part in an invitation to a dialogue,″ Shultz said. ″It’s sort of contradictory for them to say that the need to be heard but then when they are offered a chance not to take advantage of it.″
Mustafa Natshe, former mayor of the West Bank city of Hebron, told The Associated Press that the Palestinians refused the invitations.
″We consider the PLO as the sole legitimate representative of Palestinians inside and outside the occupied territories,″ Natshe said.
Natshe said a memorandum had been prepared for Shultz in lieu of the meeting but it was not delivered. The letter called for U.S. support of a Palestinian state, which is opposed by Israel, and for an international conference on Middle East peace.
The U.S. State Department ordered the PLO information office in Washington shut by the end of November, citing alleged links to terrorism.
Shultz declined comment on the office closing.
Meanwhile, violent protests continued in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza City against Shultz’s visit, the Arab-owned Palestine Press Service said. A 14-year-old boy was wounded, the agency said.
Those refusing to meet with Shultz included former Gaza City Mayor Rashad al Shawaa, businessman Hatem Abu Ghazaleh of Gaza, Nablus businessman Said Kenaan, Hebron businessman Fayez Kawasme and Radwan Abu Ayyash, head of the Arab journalists association in Jerusalem.
″The Palestinians were free to go or not to go,″ Abu Ayyash said in an interview after Shultz’s news conference. ″The feeling is to boycott any official who is closing the mouth of the Palestinians. Why did Shultz close the office in Washington if he wanted to hear the Palestinian voice?″
Shultz met with Palestinians on his last visit to the Middle East in May 1985. In addition, Vice President George Bush met with them last year, and U.S. Middle East envoy Richard Murphy has held several such meetings.
Shultz has been in the Middle East since Friday attempting to break a log- jam between Shamir and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres on the issue of an international Middle East peace conference.
Shamir opposes the conference, which has won the endorsement of the Arabs, the Soviet Union, and Peres, his left-leaning coalition partner. Shamir has said he fears that the international format would force Israel to return all land captured in the 1967 Middle East War.
Shultz gave no indication he conveyed any new ideas to Shamir or Peres for setting up peace talks.
He stressed his objective was a peaceful resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict. To that end, Shultz said, a meeting between Jordan’s King Hussein and Shamir ″to come to grips directly″ with the issue was a logical goal.
But, Shultz said, ″I’m not trying to talk anyone out of or into anytthing.″
Similarly, Yossi Ben Aharon, director general of the prime minister’s office, said: ″We didn’t learn new things from Mr. Shultz, but that was not his goal. His goal was to try to examine our position, then to examine positions of other parties to the peace process, and to see if it was possible to move this cycle another step ahead.″
Shultz has pledged that the United States was willing to explore the idea of an international conference, although the U.S. government has not endorsed it.
″We know that no one, not the United States, not Israel, not the Arabs, improves the chances for peace by doing nothing at all, by just sitting around,″ he said in Rehovot.
″Serious opportunities for peace must be explored with energy, unity and resolve for failure to do so may turn out to be a serious mistake,″ said Shultz, who received an honorary doctorate from the institute.