APRIL 30, 1993

Elyakim Rubinstein: We came here after this interruption of a few months with the strong hope to get this moving forward, and our minds are open to serious negotiations. With this spirit we began this week.

I can talk about the Jordanian-Palestinian negotiations, and the focus has been on the Palestinians. However, we also work with the Jordanians, and this is an ongoing, positive, solid, quiet negotiation, while understanding the constraints of the other side, hoping that nevertheless we could make some headway.

With the Palestinians, basically we came up with the approach of three basic avenues that can be followed, either all of them or some of them, should lead to some results if we have a positive response by our counterparts.

One is the substance of the interim self-government arrangements, which is something that we already began but needs movement – the jurisdiction, the size, the fields, the powers of the Palestinian Executive Council – and would include of course issues like land and water, which so far they didn’t like to deal with. Like water, for instance, now, they are more willing to go into that. And a few other issues. If we can move along some of these issues in the next coming period, that would be progress.

The second avenue is the idea of what’s happening on the ground, and we are open for a dialogue with them on humanitarian affairs, human rights issues that they are interested in. As you know, we’ve made some moves and we tried to create a positive atmosphere for the opening, but this can be an ongoing dialogue with them.

The third one is early empowerment in whatever areas. This is also an idea which we floated before, but now we came up with it in a more kind of full-fledged way in terms of a readiness to choose with them a number of areas. What is the purpose? – to get to the constituency, to givethe people in the territories the feeling that something is moving, something is happening. Because we felt for a while that there was a wrong message aired to the Palestinians in the territories that it’s all gloom and darkness and nothing is being offered and everything is negative. So it’s sometimes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You keep saying it’s negative and so people believe you that it’s negative, then they start opposing the negotiations.

What we want to do, and we look forward to working with our Palestinian counterparts in this respect, is to send a message, a signal, that things are happening so the early empowerment in these areas could be of help in this respect.

Yesterday, after the beginning with the problematics, we had a promising day in terms of the establishment of three formal committees. Previously we had some informal gatherings – now we called them three formal working groups: one on the concept and what it relates to, the other one land and water, and the third one on humanitarian affairs, human rights. Two convened already yesterday.

I don’t want to mislead anybody, because the breakthrough, so to speak, is yet to come in terms of substance. But we hope that this helps them, some positive message to the fact that we did begin. The U.S. has been helpful, our gestures of goodwill, steps, I think helped, our conversations also. Let’s see whether this would help us forward in the negotiations.

Q: Is there an agreement yet on whether this is a two-week round or an open-ended round?

A: There’s nothing clear on that. As far as we are concerned, we came now with marching orders to work as long as needed, which means – of course it’s not "sit here until doomsday" or something. But practically speaking, we’re now of the message that we would like to continue – it’s not that we won’t go for consultations or that we’ll sit here for every day. That’s not the point.

The point is that, first, it’s too much of a negotiating process on the negotiations. This is something we’d like to avoid again negotiating on the next round. So we feel that the idea of a continuous thing would be alright. Second, there’s enough material. For instance, as I mentioned, the police, or whatever. These are expert, specialized negotiations. They could take place. Things should be ongoing. That’s the idea. But we don’t know yet the direction of the other parties and we’re not clear about that.

Q: Is there any difference, whether in spirit or in substance, as a result of the presence of Faisal Husseini?

A: I never met him until now. It seems to me that his participation is a positive element in terms of the negotiations themselves…

Q: [inaudible, regarding regotiations with Syria]

A: What we are waiting for is really to hear what is the peace that they are offering us, what is the peace that we are hearing about. To sell concessions to the Israeli public, you have to hear the clear and loud message of peace. And, again, we came with a positive wish not to leave any stone unturned in these peace negotiations.

Q: But technically they can’t make those statements until they hear some more –

A: I’m not sure. I think that it’s easier for them. What they have to do is to make political statements. But we are asked to do is to declare the giving away of very, very dear tangibles.