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Israel's Peres Says He Backs Jordanian-Palestinian State : Mideast: But the foreign minister warns that the West Bank could not become militarized.

September 06, 1993|MELISSA HEALY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres expressed support Sunday for the eventual establishment of a confederated Jordanian-Palestinian state but warned that within such an entity, the Palestinian West Bank must stay permanently demilitarized.

"No Israeli will ever agree to have a hostile army in the gates of Jerusalem," Peres said a week after news of an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan came to light.

Peres spoke on two American news shows, ABC's "This Week with David Brinkley" and CBS' "Face the Nation."

Four days after Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization, declared that "the Palestinian state is within our grasp," Peres did not foreclose the possibility that such a sovereign entity could emerge from the process. But he did characterize such a development as "a mistake."

While senior Palestinian officials, in interviews on the news shows, expressed more expansive hopes, they did not dispute Peres' view.

Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Arafat, said that the peace process now under way will "absolutely" pave the way for a Palestinian state. But he predicted that the Palestinians, accorded sovereignty rights for the first time, would enter into the Jordanian-Palestinian confederation for which Peres expressed support.

A second adviser to Arafat, addressing concerns that the Palestinians would use the opportunity to arm themselves, offered qualified assurances about the significance of the peace accord for Palestinian aspirations.

"The land of the Palestinians and the Palestinians on that land will enjoy sovereignty and national independence," Bassam abu Sharif, a political adviser to Arafat, said. At the same time, Abu Sharif sought to deflect concerns that the Palestinian entity that would result from the peace accord would raise an army to challenge Israel. "What we're looking for is cooperation with Israel," he said.

Both Peres and the PLO official stressed that economic cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza--as well as outside financial assistance that is to be coordin a ted partly by Washington--will be a key factor in sustaining peace over the long term. Abu Sharif said that in the wake of the agreement, the Middle East "should have a certain form of economic cooperation, a Middle East market, common market probably."

While cautioning that "we are going to keep our army," Peres echoed Abu Sharif's emphasis on economic cooperation.

"If I would have to make a choice between having, say, half a million tourists or 5,000 soldiers, I believe that even from a security point of view, half a million tourists will guarantee more the security than 5,000 soldiers, because it creates an entirely new environment," Peres said.

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