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November 01, 1991 - Image 33

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-11-01

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

MIDEAST

Israelis

crushed by the dread of what
might await them at the
. Royal Palace.
As the venomous war of
words continued, the Israeli
message of "cautious op-
timism" was clearly design-
ed to break down the per-
vasive image of hard-line
obstructionism.
Seasoned professional
spokesmen, accustomed to
putting the most palatable
spin on unpleasant realities,
seemed weary and
dispirited.
"We are not euphoric, but
we are not melancholic. We
have come here to talk
peace, but the other side is
showing by its actions that it
is continuing to follow the
path of violence," said one
official.
These sentiments, coming
against the backdrop of at-
tacks which killed two set-
tlers on the West Bank and
five Israeli soldiers in Leb-
anon on the eve of the con-
ference, had a ring of
authenticity.
In the thick of things was a
group of representatives
from West Bank settlements
who had paid their own way
to Madrid to explain their
case and, in the words of the
mayor of Shiloh, Yisrael
Medad, to "strengthen the
government's right hand
and stiffen its spine."
But in the damp and un-
promising climate of
Madrid, even their can-do
approach lacked some of its
conviction that the govern-
ment of Yitzhak Shamir
might yet agree to territorial
concessions.
The men entrusted with
the serious business of
defending Israel's corner
streamed into the hotel late
Monday afternoon and the
lobby erupted in a brief
burst of emotion as the ad-
vance party greeted the
delegates.
It was clear, however, that
the Israelis were whistling
to keep up their courage. For

Photo by RNS/Reuters

Continued from Page 1

The Hall of Columns in Madrid's Royal Palace, where the peace conference is being held.

even as the delegation
touched down in Madrid, an-
other crisis erupted with the
United States, provoking
Israeli suggestions that they
might walk out at this late
hour.
During eight months of in-
tricate negotiations with
U.S. Secretary of State
James Baker, Israel had won
agreement that the Palestin-
ians would be represented in
4 joint delegation with Jor-
dan.
But two days before the
conference opened, the U.S.
logistics expert announced
that the Palestinians would
be given equal time with
other delegates to state their
case, prompting the pro-

foundly suspicious Israelis to
declare that Washington
had effectively reneged on
its agreement.
Israel's ambassador to
Washington, Zalman
Shoval, was obviously
agitated as he raced off to
confront the Americans,
suggesting diplomatically
that the announcement had
been the result of "a
misunderstanding."
But diplomatic talk was
betrayed by a deep, underly-
ing fear: "We do not want to
see-any tilt, nor do we expect
to see any tilt, in the direc-
tion of our opponents," he
said, noting that "the con-
notation of this new ar-
rangement is that the Pales-

tinians represent a separate
national entity." He said,
"This is not something that
was agreed with the Ameri-
cans.
"We know that the United
States always sticks to its
commitments," he said, ad-
ding more in hope than ex-
pectation: "I have no reason
to doubt they will act the
same way in the future."
To bewildered outsiders,
objections to a Palestinian
delegate spending 45
minutes presenting his case
might have seemed like
obscurantist nitpicking, but
symbols are of prime impor-
tance to all the parties in
Madrid, and the Israelis

Small Steps Are Possible

LISA HOSTEIN

Special to The Jewish News

T

he most one could
hope for from the Ma-
drid conference, said
one of Israel's 14 delegates, is
small steps toward reducing
tensions with Syria, and
"possible progress" on the
Palestinian issue.
Knesset member Eliahu
Ben-Elissar, Israel's first
ambassador to Egypt, said
that Syria is not ripe for
peace; Jordan is ripe but
unable to make it for fear of
repercussions from Syria;
and Lebanon has become a
Syrian protectorate.
Despite his pessimism,

Ms. Hostein reports for the
Jewish Exponent of
Philadelphia.

though, Mr. Elissar, 59, said,
"I can't belittle the fact that
this is an event of historical
dimensions. Madrid is going
to be a turning point, no
matter what happens.
"This time we will be
meeting equal to equal," he
said, adding: "I prefer it this
way."
The veteran diplomat
dismissed the opening ses-
sion as "one huge show."
International experience
shows that "parties in war
who wish to negotiate to
make peace don't need much
ado," he said. "There's too
much ado here."
Given the current Syrian
stance, Mr. Ben-Elissar
predicted that the most that
could be achieved through
bilateral negotiations is for
"Israel and Syria to agree

not to use force in order to
solve conflicts."
But he does see changes in
the Palestinian attitude
toward Israel, changes that
he attributes to a "feeling of
fatigue."
"We are ready to make
major concessions to the Pa-
lestinians on a lot, except on
independence," he said.
Mr. Ben-Elissar said that
he is "absolutely afraid"
that international pressure
will be exerted on Israel as
the process continues. The
fear is compounded, he said,
by a lack of trust in the
United States.
"The Israelis today trust
the Americans less that they
did a few months ago," he
said. "This doesn't make the
process any easier." ❑

regarded this as a grave
breach.
What was soon clear,
however, was that James
Baker, who had capitulated
to almost all of Israel's pro-
cedural demands, was now
demonstrating that he was
in the driver's seat and that
his hands were firmly on the
steering wheel.
The Israelis took less than
24 hours to reluctantly agree
that the Palestinians and
the Jordanians could have
separate, equal time to
speak.
It was, perhaps, a minor
incident, but one that was
used by the United States to
underscore the point that it
is no longer the uncritical
cheerleader and paymaster
of the Israelis. It is a mes-
sage that Jerusalem has
been slow to grasp.
"I think the Israelis are
just now, finally, realizing
how much the world has
changed and how
catastrophic their situation
is," commented one veteran
Middle East analyst in
Madrid. "They were so
seduced by Reagan and
Shultz that they have found
it hard to believe that Bush
and Baker are coldly deter-
mined to force Israel's
hand."
This week was certainly a
moment of truth for all
Israelis — those who believe
their government should get
rid of the occupied ter-
ritories, those who believe
Israel must hang on to every
square inch and those who
occupy pragmatic positions
somewhere in between.
Madrid is now firmly
planted on the map of
modern Middle East history.
What remains to be seen is
whether, 500 years after the
expulsion of Spain's Jews,
this old and lovely city is to
be forever associated with
peace between Arabs and
Jew or more weary years of
hatred and war.



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

33

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