Shamir, Baker Record “Some Progress” Toward Peace Talks
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir took his appeal against PLO participation in Mideast talks to President Bush today after a two-hour session with Secretary of State James A. Baker III.
Both Shamir and Baker claimed ″some progress″ toward arranging talks between Israel and Palestinian Arabs.
Shamir said the discussions would have to be continued. And Baker stressed there was no reply yet from Egypt, which is acting as the surrogate for the Palestine Liberation Organization.
White House and State Department spokesmen said no deadline had been imposed.
″It’s important not to become impatient when you’re dealing with the Middle East,″ presidential spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said. ″Two thousand years is the normal wait for things to happen.″
As Shamir met with Baker, Fitzwater told reporters who asked if Bush was frustrated: ″The peace process has been going on for a number of years. You keep working at it, and keep plugging away. You keep chipping away at it. You keep trying to make progress and trying to move forward.″
But, Fitzwater added: ″You have to fight frustration because it’s just not a fast process.″
Shamir is appealing to Bush against a PLO role in the talks being arranged between Israel and Palestinian Arabs. The Israeli leader does not want to legitimize Yasser Arafat’s organization, which has conducted terrorist attacks against Israel, or be drawn into negotiations over territory.
Although Shamir’s plan to visit Washington surfaced two months ago the White House delayed until last week in arranging a meeting with Bush. This was interpreted in some reports as evidence of White House frustration with Shamir.
The Israeli leader, on an 11-day trip to the United States and Europe, wants to restrict the talks with Palestinian Arabs to arrangements for limited self-rule on the West Bank and in Gaza.
But the PLO has not given its approval for the talks, and Bush and Baker might weigh giving iron-clad assurances to Israel against risking PLO disapproval.
It is generally assumed Palestinians would not negotiate with Israel without a green light from the PLO, and the organization is demanding a state carved out of territory held by Israel.
Shamir, who arrived Monday, saw Baker over lunch at the State Department today before calling on Bush. On Thursday, the prime minister has scheduled meetings on Capitol Hill with members of the House Foreign Affairs and the Senate Foreign Relations Committees.
Egypt is acting as a surrogate for the PLO and has asked for ″clarifications ″ of a plan by Baker to get Israel and Palestinians together. The Israeli Cabinet, meanwhile, is seeking assurances that the PLO and its members would play no role in the talks.
Baker telephoned Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel-Meguid Tuesday afternoon. The State Department declined to provide any information about their conversation.
In Cairo, Abdel-Meguid said Baker ″gave me the U.S. response to the Palestinian request for clarifications and explanations that I had relayed last Friday,″ He offered no details.
The situation has grown complex, even by Middle Eastern standards.
Before the talks are held, Baker has proposed that he meet here with Foreign Ministers Moshe Arens of Israel and Esmat Abdel Meguid of Egypt.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret D. Tutwiler said the points raised by Israel and by Egypt for the PLO would have to be ironed out before Baker held the Washington meeting.
″We’ve always said you have to have acceptance on a framework,″ she said.
Ms. Tutwiler did not seem frustrated by the absence of an official response from Egypt to Baker’s proposal for the Israeli-Palestinian talks.
″If at any point you get a positive reply, it’s helpful,″ she said. ″But there is no time frame on it.″
Shamir was visited in his midtown hotel suite Tuesday by officials from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a lobbying and research group, and from the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
He also met with Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad and other Israeli Embassy officials.
Apart from some differences with the Bush administration, the prime minister has been getting conflicting advice from American Jews, who comprise the largest Jewish community in the world.
Some are urging him to be conciliatory. Others are trying to bolster Shamir’s resolve not to make territorial and other concessions before negotiations are held.
Some 200 American rabbis signed a letter circulated by the American Jewish Peace Lobby urging Shamir to accept the principle - before any negotiations - that Israel should relinquish land in return for peace with the Arabs.
″Israel and its well-being are not only the concerns of the inhabitants of that country, but touch the heart and religious feeling of every Jew in the world,″ Rabbi Jerome Malino, of Danbury, Conn., said in a statement. ″We should be prepared to take the risk for peace we are so often prepared to take for war.″