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March 10, 1989 - Image 34

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1989-03-10

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BACKGROUND

Shamir's 'Peace Initiative'
Holding Little That Is New

HELEN DAVIS

Foreign Correspondent

W

hat major new
peace initiative will
Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Shamir unveil during
his first encounter with the
Bush administration in
Washington next month? And
what message will he
delivered to the thousands of
Jewish leaders whom he has
summoned to Jerusalem for a
meeting this month?
By his own admission at the
weekend, Shamir has not
changed his mind on the key
questions of talking with the
Palestine Liberation
Organization, of allowing the
establishment of a Palesti-
nian state or, indeed, of relin-
quishing Israeli control over
any part of the occupied West
Bank and Gaza, Strip.
Not surprisingly, he added
that he would not, after all,
be taking a "full-fledged
peace initiative" to
Washington (see box). In-
stead, he will be proposing a
series of steps which he
believes could lead to an ac-
commodation between Israel
and the Palestinian in-
habitants of the territories.
According to Israeli sources
this week, Shamir's major
"concession" will be to agree
to local government elections
— the first since 1976 — at
which the Palestinians of the
West Bank and Gaza will be
able to elect representatives
who will then negotiate with
the Israeli authorities for a
large measure of self-rule,
though not full independence.
For its part, Israel will
agree to withdraw its troops
from large areas of the ter-
ritories, particularly the
densely populated Palesti-
nian towns and villages, and
allow the Palestinians to raise
a police force strong enough
to keep the peace.
Along with a self-governing
Palestinian authority and
police force, Shamir will also
permit the development of a
Palestinian judiciary, which
will allow Israel to dismantle
its civilian administration
and its military government.
In exchange, Shamir is ex-
pected to insist that Israel re-
tains control of sensitive
military locations in the ter-
ritories as well as major
arterial roads, allowing the
army to maintain its early
warning capability and offer-
ing a degree of protection to
Jewish settlers.
The plan, however, does not

address the two major issues
in dispute between Israel and
the Palestinians: ultimate
sovereignty of the territories
and the future status of
Jerusalem.
Shamir is expected to con-
tend that, after more than a
year of hostility and bloodsh-
ed, such issues must take se-
cond place to the confidence-
building measures he is
proposing.
The Palestinians, he will
argue, must prove that they
are capable of both governing

Yitzhak Shamir: Series of steps.

themselves and living in
peace with their Israeli
neighbors • before such far-
reaching subjects can be
opened up for debate. In the
meantime, Israel will be han-
ding the Palestinians control
over their destiny, with the
exception of foreign affairs
and defense.
This proposition may sound
fair and reasonable: Israel
may indeed argue that, after
decades of uninterrupted
hostility, it is not yet ready to
take major risks with its
security.
It is, after all, proposing a
modus vivendi which will
remove the immediate object
of Palestinian rage — Israeli
troops — from much of the
landscape of the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, while at the
same time coming to within
an ace of granting the Palesti-
nian the dream of their own
state.
When all the hype has sub-
sided, however, the Shamir
peace proposals will emerge
as nothing more than a
careful repackaging of the
10-year-old Camp David
autonomy plan — a plan that
was flatly rejected then, as
now, by the Palestinians.

That does not necessarily
mean it is all bad. Given the
intractable nature of the
dilemma, and the political
constraints on both sides, it
comes as close as anything
else to a solution. Never-
theless, while autonomy of-
fers certain political advan-
tages for both Israelis and
Palestinians, it also carries
risks for both.
For Israel, the immediate
advantages of autonomy are
that it would create a.
"separation of forces," defuse
the tensions, reduce the
potential for confrontation
and allow the army to focus
its attention on serious
military threats from abroad
rather than on the police
duties that have consumed its
time and energies since
December 1987.
In addition, the autonomy
device would enable Shamir
to resolve, albeit temporarily,
the Palestinian problem
without dealing with the
PLO and, more important,
without compromising his
ideological purity by
withdrawing from the
biblically promised Land of
Israel.
The danger for Israel is that
the autonomy plan might
work too well; the Palesti-
nians might get down to the
serious business of running
their own affairs, creating
political institutions, an
education system, a social
framework and an economic
infrastructure that would
allow them to disengage from
Israel.
Under such circumstances,
Jerusalem would have no
cause for military or political
intervention — and little
justification for sending in
the troops — if the Palesti-
nians were to make a
unilateral declaration of in-
dependence, a declaration
that would certainly win im-
mediate and overwhelming
international support.
The Camp David Accords,
signed by Menachem Begin
and Anwar Sadat in 1978,
allowed for sovereignty of the
territories to be determined
five years after the implemen-
tation of autonomy. If the
Palestinians had accepted-the
Camp David formula then,
say Israeli political observers,
they would almost certainly
have their own independent
state today.
However, even though
Yassir Arafat has - since
recognized Israel's right to ex-
ist, at least some of the

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