August 18, 1992
ISRAEL’S PEACE-MAKING POLICIES ON THE EVE OF THE RENEWAL OF BILATERAL TALKS
I. Israel’s Approach to the Peace Process
Middle East peace talks are about to reconvene with Israel being represented by a new Government headed by Yitzhak Rabin. Prime Minister Rabin stated in his inaugural speech that his government "is determined to expend all the energy, to take any path, to do everything necessary to achieve peace and prevent war. … The new government has accordingly made it a prime goal to promote the making of peace and take vigorous steps that will lead to the conclusion of the Arab-Israeli conflict."
Israel enters this round of negotiations with an open mind, with new ideas, and with no pre-conditions. The Israeli delegations will hold talks with three separate Arab delegations, and will make every effort to achieve simultaneous yet independent progress with all of the parties concerned.
The Government’s peace-making policies are founded upon the basic agreements already achieved through months of mediation, negotiation and mutual compromise, which became known as the Madrid framework. These agreements set the parameters for the current peace process and define its goal, which is the achievement of peace through direct bilateral negotiations between the parties, on the basis of UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.
II. New Israeli Policy and Positions
* Intensified Negotiations:
In its Basic Policy Guidelines, the new government publicly stated that it will "work for the acceleration of the negotiations and for the conducting of continuous discussions between the parties."
To this end, Israel has announced its willingness to enter into intensive talks in extended negotiating sessions. The present round of talks is scheduled to last over a month.
* Accelerated Time Table for Autonomy Talks:
Israel’s stated policy is to accelerate the negotiations with the Palestinians, in order to achieve an agreement on autonomy arrangements as soon as possible. Prime Minister Rabin publicly outlined this position during his recent US visit, stating that an agreement on election modalities could be reached by the 1st of December 1992, and agreement on the responsibilities of the Administrative Council could be achieved by the 1st of February 1993.
"I am ready to say that in April-May 1993, general elections will be held in the territories, in which the Palestinians who reside there will elect by themselves, from themselves, an Administrative Council … to run the interim self-government arrangements." (PM Rabin, MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour, 13 August 1992)
The new government policy includes a redefinition of the national order of priorities. In accordance with its stated Policy Guidelines, the new government has already made far-reaching changes in public construction and development projects, and the building of several thousand housing units in the territories has been stopped or canceled. After his 11 August meeting with Prime Minister Rabin, US President George Bush stated:
"We see a very different approach to settlements and we salute the Prime Minister. …He took alot of courage and he’s begun to implement that policy, certainly to the satisfaction of the United States."
* Administrative Council Elections:
According to the Camp David concept, an Administrative Council, comprised of residents of the territories, will act as the self-governing body of the autonomy. Israel proposes that this Council be chosen in free, open, democratic general elections. Council elections could take place as soon as an agreement is reached between Israel and the Palestinians regarding the composition and responsibilities of the Administrative Council.
* Palestinian Representation:
Israel remains obligated to the Madrid formula with regard to the structure of the talks and the composition of the delegations. Prime Minister Rabin recently stated:
"There should not be any misunderstanding. We are not negotiating with the PLO of Tunisia. We negotiate, and we stress that we negotiate with the Palestinians who reside in the territories. … With whom they talk, it’s their problem. As long as the partner for the negotitions and the partner for reaching an agreement and the partner for the implementation of the agreement are the representation of the Palestinians from the territories, it’s O.K." (CBS "This Morning", August 12, 1992).
* Improved Dialogue with Palestinians:
The mid-July crisis at Nablus’s An-Najah University precipitated by the presence of armed terrorists on campus was resolved peacefully through a dialogue between Israeli authorities and local Palestinian leaders. This signals a new attitude, and illustrates Israel’s effort to foster an improved atmosphere for negotiations.
* Expanded Palestinian Press:
In the beginning of August, the Israeli Civil Administration granted operating licenses to a number of Palestinian newspapers in Judea and Samaria. Two weeklies have already begun publication. Until recently, Palestinian newspapers were published only in Jerusalem, where the press restrictions of military administration do not apply.
* Negotiations with Jordan:
In the present round of talks in Washington, Israel hopes to continue to explore avenues of cooperation with Jordan which will later become integral elements of a peace treaty to be concluded between the two countries. Israel plans to move forward with the negotiations, and to continue the informal discussions between experts which began in previous rounds. Areas to be discussed may include, for example, environmental cooperation, energy, water, and other subjects.
* New Approach in Talks with Syria:
The Israeli negotiating team with Syria will be led by the newly appointed Prof. Itamar Rabinovich, and will make every effort to arrive at a contractual peace with Syria. Israel places great emphasis on the making of peace with Syria. As an indication of this, Prime Minister Rabin, in his inaguaral address before the Knesset, invited Syria’s president to Israel, and declared his willingness to travel to Damascus in the service of peace.
* Negotiations with Lebanon:
There are no contested vital issues outstanding between the State of Israel and the Republic of Lebanon. In these talks, Israel hopes that Lebanon will demonstrate sensitivity and consideration for Israel’s very real security concerns regarding their common border.
* Willingness to Reassess European Role:
Israel’s new Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres, has announced an Israeli willingness to re-evaluate the European request for an expanded role in the Middle-East peace process. The new government has already agreed to grant special diplomatic status to the EC representative responsible for coordinating European aid to the Palestinians in the territories.
III. Israel’s Vision for the Future
The current peace-making process holds out the hope of creating a new Middle East, founded upon peaceful relations and strengthened by a spirit of mutual cooperation. This attitude was expressed by Israel’s new government in it’s Basic Guidelines:
"The government will work toward the creation of a new Middle East, in which resources are no longer devoted toward the arms race, but to development grounded in economic, cultural, and scientific cooperation. Progress in the peace process must be accompanied by the creation of systems for regional cooperation."
In the pursuit of this goal, Israel places great importance on the multilateral negotiations which form an integral part of the peace-making process and act as an essential complement to the bilateral negotiations. The multilateral negotiations, which form part of the Madrid framework, deal with a number of issues of common interest for all of the states of the region. Israel views these talks as a promising opportunity to rebuild the Middle East, to remove the threat of war and endemic poverty, and to create a prosperous and safe region for the benefit of all of its inhabitants.