Israel has told Washington it accepts in principle a U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks but has demanded assurances to exclude the PLO, Israeli media reports said Tuesday.
Israel Radio and the Yedioth Ahronoth daily said Foreign Minister Moshe Arens sent a telegram Monday night to Secretary of State James Baker proposing minor revisions in the American five-point formula.Baker this month put forward the plan for talks in Cairo to break a deadlock over Israel's proposal for elections in the occupied territories.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Amihud confirmed a telegram was sent but would not reveal its contents until he was sure Baker had received it.
A government source said Israel sent a positive message.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir objects to the formula for lack of an explicit Israeli veto right over the makeup of the Palestinian delegation and because talks could digress from Israel's 5-month-old elections proposal.
"I think we have to be sure that we will not negotiate with the PLO. This is one of the principles of our peace initiative and we are committed to it," he said in remarks broadcast Tuesday.
Israel refuses to talk to the Palestine Liberation Organization, which it regards as a terrorist movement bent on destroying the Jewish state. Shamir blames the PLO for a 22-month-old uprising against Israeli rule in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Yedioth Ahronoth said the telegram from Arens proposed no changes of substance. Israel Radio said Israel wanted assurances the PLO would play no role in peace talks that would focus only on the elections plan.
Israeli analysts say Shamir and allies in his rightist Likud Party must either join Baker and Israel's more dovish Labor Party in drafting a compromise or else accept constraints of Likud hardliners that would kill present peace efforts.
Labor leader and Vice Premier Shimon Peres said he opposed making changes in Baker's proposals. Speaking from a hospital where he has been receiving treatment for a urinary tract and blood infection, he told Israel Radio:
"I don't see anything in Baker's suggestions that needs changing. I think Baker's proposal aims to help realize the Israeli government's initiative."