ISRAEL'S peace efforts, stalled on both the Palestinian and
Syrian tracks, could soon become a hostage of the country's
With less than two years to Israel's next election, Israeli
officials are already jockeying for position with a host of
conflicting solutions for the ailing Israel-PLO peace accord.
Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said yesterday that the
election campaign would be in full swing by the beginning of 1996.
(Mr. Peres did not rule out running in the primaries for the
country's first directly elected prime minister.)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation
Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat will hold talks next week to
try to end a deadlock over how to proceed with the ailing
Israel-PLO peace accord.
The 16-month-old accord is facing renewed political pressure
following the deaths of three Palestinian policemen in a shootout
with Israeli soldiers in Gaza this week and a growing conflict
between Palestinians and Jewish settlers on the West Bank.
Negotiations between Israel and Syria have also deadlocked. But
secret negotiations between Syrian and Israeli officials are
continuing in the search for an accord whereby Syria would curb
hostilities against Israel in return for an Israeli withdrawal from
At a recent summit in Alexandria, Egypt, the leaders of Egypt
and Saudi Arabia backed Syrian President Hafez al-Assad in his
demand for an unconditional Israeli withdrawal from the Golan.
But Peres said that unless Israel reaches an accord with Syria
by the middle of the year, there would be little chance of an
agreement before Israel's general election scheduled to take place
by November 1996.
"Syria cannot expect us to adopt their position before
negotiations have started," Peres said, indicating that Israel was
ready to negotiate a withdrawal from the Golan.
Peres noted that Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak believed that
Syria was committed to peace and had urged Israel to be more
patient. "Whether a miracle will happen or not, I don't know," he
In another potential blow for the peace process, senior
Palestinian negotiator Nabil Shaath has threatened to quit unless
agreement can be reached soon on the release of about 5,000
Palestinian political prisoners who still remain behind bars.
"Holding thousands of Palestinian prisoners is an unforgiveable
crime...," Mr. Shaath said Tuesday at a joint news conference with
Peres after Israel-PLO talks in Cairo failed to achieve a
Mr. Rabin is also facing mounting problems with a disillusioned
Israeli public. His ruling Labor Party is in an increasing state of
disarray as his coalition government loses support at the polls.
The most recent poll conducted for Israeli television found that if
elections were held today, Rabin's Labor Party coalition would no
longer be assured of a working majority. …