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May 01, 1992 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1992-05-01

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

BACKGROUND

Artwork from Newsday by Anthony D'Adamo. Copyright° 1992, Newsday. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate.

Away From The Glare,
Peace Talks Progress

JAMES D BESSER

Washington Correspondent

I

n diplomacy, the atmo-
spherics are often as im-
portant as the actual ne-
gotiating process.
That axiom was in force
when the fifth round of Mid-
dle East peace talks opened
in Washington this week —
the last round in the capital,
thanks to last week's
agreement by all parties to
move subsequent negotia-
tions to Rome.
Media attention has wan-
ed but optimism has grown,
and Israeli and Palestinian
negotiators, in separate
press conferences, went out
of their way to express a
sense of positive movement.
The new, upbeat mood ap-
parently reflected some ge-
nuine shifts in the negotia-
ting process — but also some
creative imagery that had
very little to do with the
peace process itself.
The most noticeable differ-
ence in this week's talks was
the hopeful tone of Israeli
negotiators.
Deputy Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu, who oozed
gloom and anger during his
last appearance before the
Washington press corps,

went out of his way to project
optimism.
"The fact that we are go-
ing to move from Washing-
ton to Rome (for the next
round of talks) is not merely
a physical movement, but an
indication of movement in
the negotiations," he said.
"I'm not sure that all the
people sitting here are
aware of the fact that we are
making progress; we have
come to make progress, con-
crete progress."
Mr. Netanyahu's words
seemed like a deliberate
effort to counter the general
impression that the talks
would remain in a holding
pattern until after the
Israeli elections.
Some of that progress, he
said, involved a new Pales-
tinian receptivity to earlier
Israeli proposals for "areas
of peaceful coexistence and
cooperation.
But Mr. Netanyahu
declined to reveal any
details of these discussions
— or of the new Israeli pro-
posal for "pilot municipal
elections" in the territories.
Another Israeli represent-
ative emphasized that the
apparent resolution of

earlier procedural problems
— including the sticky ques-
tion of where the next round
of bilateral talks would be
held — was a clear sign of
progress in the peace talks.
"We're speaking about
small gradations; we're not
talking about
breakthroughs, or docu-
ments being signed on the

Israelis say the
upcoming national
elections are not a
major obstacle to
effective
negotiations.

White House lawn," said
Dore Gold, an advisor to the
delegation and an official of
the Jaffee Center for Strate-
gic Studies. "Everything is a
matter of degree. But be-
cause so many of the pro-
cedural problems are now
behind us, we are beginning
to deal much more with the
real substance — and I think
it's fair to say that this rep-
resents real progress."
Mr. Gold argued that be-
cause of the uncertainty

about exactly what the
Israeli elections might mean
for the peace process, those
elections are not likely to be
a major obstacle to effective
negotiation.
There was also a feeling of
cautious euphoria over
Monday's announcement by
a State Department spokes-
man that Syria's president
Hafez al-Assad had lifted the
special restrictions against
that country's 4500 Jews.
Israeli negotiators were
careful to avoid connections
between that reported event
and the peace talks; repeat-
edly, Mr. Netanyahu re-
jected suggestions that it
was a "confidence-building"
gesture on the part of the
Syrians that required an
Israeli gesture in return.
"Syria, by virtue of the
fact that it is an au-
thoritarian state, has an
endless bag of goodwill
gestures it can make be-
cause its starting point is so
low," Mr. Gold said.
But on Monday, it was
clear that the Syrian deci-
sion was an important fac-
tor in the upbeat mood that
characterized the opening of
the fifth round of talks.

"It definitely creates a
better sense of trust," said
one Israeli official. "It may
not be related to the peace
process at all; it may just be
a stunt by Assad — but it
helps create a mood of
greater optimism. I thing
you could say that there
really has been a positive
change in the perception
people have about the
negotiations."
There was also a political
factor in the new, upbeat
mood of the talks.
Israeli negotiators need to
show at least some progress
in substantive issues to
counter charges in Israel
that the Likud government
is not serious about the
peace process; the Palestin-
ians, stung by Secretary of
State James Baker's sugges-
tion at the end of the last
round of talks that they were
more interested in
posturing" than negotia-
ting, are worried about their
c-redibility with the ad-
ministration.
The result was a combina-
tion of genuine, small-scale
progress in the negotiations
— and a new, deliberately
optimistic "spin."

"



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