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Mideast Gives U.S. Peace Plan Little Support

February 11, 1988|MICHAEL ROSS | Times Staff Writer

JERUSALEM — Assistant Secretary of State Richard W. Murphy wound up a weeklong Middle East tour Wednesday without receiving a clear endorsement from Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of a new U.S. plan for peace in the region.

The U.S. proposal was also criticized Wednesday, indirectly but strongly, by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, and it was rejected outright by Palestinian leaders in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip for falling short of their demands for self-determination.

Israeli officials said that Shamir, who has expressed strong reservations about several aspects of the U.S. plan, asked Murphy for several clarifications, which the envoy promised to provide after returning to Washington to confer with Secretary of State George P. Shultz.

Only Peres Likes Plan

Only Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, who conferred with Murphy for two hours Wednesday, "welcomed the U.S. plan," an Israeli official said.

The proposal, pieced together from a number of existing plans in response to two months of bloody unrest by Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories, envisions a three-year transitional period of limited Palestinian autonomy while negotiators seek a permanent settlement.

U.S. officials here refused to comment on either the substance of the plan or the Arab and Israeli reaction to it. But Israeli officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it consists of three main elements:

-- An "international opening" for Arab-Israeli peace talks this spring. The Arab states insist that negotiations take place under the umbrella of an international peace conference sponsored by the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. Under the U.S. plan, this ceremonial umbrella would open and close very quickly, with the parties then moving into the bilateral talks favored by Israel.

-- An interim or transitional agreement on Palestinian autonomy, starting with municipal elections on the West Bank and in the Gaza Strip to develop and cultivate a local Palestinian leadership.

-- An agreement to begin negotiations later this year for a permanent solution to the Arab-Israeli dispute.

None of these elements is new. Indeed, as described by Israeli officials, the plan is basically the autonomy provisions of the 1978 Camp David accords between Israel and Egypt, garnished with an "international umbrella" to make them more appetizing to the principal Arab states, Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

One New Element

The plan has one novel element: a specific and accelerated timetable for the implementation of its various stages.

According to Israeli officials, Murphy suggested that peace talks open in April. They would be followed by roughly six months of bilateral negotiations between Israel and a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation on a transitional period of autonomy for the 1.4 million Arab inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The transitional period would last for three years instead of the five proposed in the Camp David accords.

In Washington, U.S. sources conceded that the plan consists of old ideas that have been rearranged. Officially, the State Department refused to provide specifics, but a senior Administration official said that the Israelis would have to be willing to trade territory for peace, or else there would be no purpose in initiating the plan.

Those assigned to implement the autonomy measures, the official said, would be either Palestinians chosen by some electoral process or leaders who have emerged from the current turmoil. They would constitute a "transitional authority," and they would be likely candidates for the Jordanian delegation to the international conference. But the Palestine Liberation Organization would be excluded from the conference, he said.

Shultz is prepared to make a major commitment of time and energy to the effort if the two countries primarily involved, Israel and Jordan, accept its broad outlines, the Administration official said. President Reagan is also expected to play an active role if the initiative is accepted.

U.S. Sees 2 Main Features

From the perspective of the Reagan Administration, the official said, the plan has two principal and inter-related elements:

-- The need to make significant political change in the occupied territories within a relatively short time. The change should affect the Palestinians' daily lives, including such local services as land, water, and police on the West Bank. The idea would be for these arrangements to be settled over a 6-month period.

-- These moves toward autonomy would not be sufficient unless or until the "final status" issues are addressed, the official said. He said a date must be fixed for the start of negotiations, presumably at an international peace conference. He said the conference must start rapidly and not lag far behind the 6-month period.

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