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The climb toward Mideast peace

By Arthur J. Goldberg / October 4, 1988



SEVERAL approaches have been proposed for resolving the Israeli-Arab impasse. This impasse provoked the current Palestinian uprising in the occupied territories, which in turn has become the central issue in Israel's November national elections. All the solutions, unfortunately, appear flawed. The indefatigable American secretary of state, George Shultz, has put forward an accelerated version of the Camp David accords. The secretary would limit the period of autonomy for the West Bank agreed to at Camp David and establish an early date for self-determination by the Arab residents.

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The secretary reluctantly agreed to an international conference of the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council to sponsor peace talks. To minimize Soviet influence in a settlement, however, the secretary would limit the role of the permanent members to providing the umbrella for direct negotiations.

Secretary Shultz's proposal was rejected both by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and by the Arab states. It has, however, been embraced, with some reservations, by Israel's foreign minister, Shimon Peres.

Mr. Shamir, notwithstanding his foreign minister's stand, proposes to revive the scenario of the Camp David accords, which he voted against in the Knesset, namely a five-year period of autonomy for West Bank residents followed by limited self-determination, to be worked out through negotiation. Shamir is against the proposed international conference, fearing that such a conference would seek to impose a settlement on Israel.

Despite his newborn support of the Camp David accords, Shamir is not willing to yield the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem on terms acceptable to the Arabs. He would grant a measure of autonomy, as Camp David provides, but in a more restricted way than contemplated by the accords. The prime minister is adamant against a Palestinian independent state on the West Bank, whatever the residents' views, both Arabs and Iraelis. He has also repeatedly stated that the issue of Jerusalem is non-negotiable. In effect, Shamir asserts Israel's sovereignty over the West Bank, although not voicing this concept.

Foreign Minister Peres has a different solution and favors a different approach. His proposal is land for peace, and he supports an international conference. He conceives of such a conference as a fig leaf for direct negotiations between the involved parties.

Land for peace is an attractive slogan and seems to be supported by many Israelis, some leaders of American Jewry, and the administration. But there is a rub. Mr. Peres's proposal does not define the extent of the withdrawal. Virtually all Arab countries, including the moderate ones, however, are insistent that the withdrawal be to the pre-1967 boundaries, and particularly they insist upon the return of East Jerusalem. The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Yasser Arafat have never repealed their resolution that asserts sovereignty not only of the West Bank, Gaza, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem, but also of Israel proper. Nor have they accepted Resolutions 242 and 338 of the United Nations Security Council, which call for recognition of Israel.

While Peres's statement of willingness to trade land for peace is most general in its terms, Israel's Labor Party, with Peres's endorsement, has been specific. The Labor Party supports those border rectifications it deems necessary for Israel's security. It defines the Jordan River to be Israel's security boundary and provides that the entire West Bank be demilitarized.