There are numerous common areas of action for this government along the course of future diplomacy in the region. In January last year Yitzhak Shamir wrote a 16-page letter to George Shultz outlining his vision for the future. That letter brought Shultz back into the Middle East process after a long recess. In it Shamir reportedly made several critical points, including that he was prepared for sweeping transitional arrangements, leading to a final status agreement--a fundamental turnabout in Shamir's previously stated position. The prime minister also offered a somewhat convoluted explanation that he was not totally opposed to the concept of exchanging territory for peace.
The Americans (and Shimon Peres), who know that they have little to no chance of budging Shamir on the issue of an international conference, will concentrate on pushing him to keep to the word of his letter, starting with elections in the territories (which are not specifically mentioned in Shamir's letter). For the Americans this will represent progress toward a changing environment in which peace can be seriously discussed.
The prime minister will be able to explain away any progress that might be made in the context of autonomy arrangements. For Labor, this will be movement toward creating a bona fide Palestinian partner with whom to negotiate in the future. For the Palestinians, the process will be seen as the first stage in a transfer of authority and self-rule leading to an independent Palestinian state.