Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin expressed strong opposition yesterday to the holding of new Middle East peace talks under any kind of "international umbrella." He also said he was concerned about signs of American readiness to talk to a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation that might include some members of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
Speaking at a National Press Club luncheon, Rabin said Israel would regard a U.S. decision to hold talks with PLO members of any kind as amounting to American acceptance of an independent Palestinian state.
"Whoever agrees to talk to the PLO means that he accepts in principle the creation of an independent Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan," Rabin said.
His speech appeared to reflect a growing Israeli nervousness about U.S. intentions in the wake of the visit here last week of King Hussein of Jordan. While here, Hussein announced that the PLO had agreed to enter direct negotiations with Israel as part of a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and on the basis of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338.
The New York Times reported today that aides to Sens. John Heinz (R-Pa.) and Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) said they will offer a resolution that would bar sales of advanced military equipment to Jordan until it enters into direct negotiations with Israel.
In Jerusalem yesterday, Prime Minister Shimon Peres said he was ready for direct talks with Hussein, but opposed any prior meeting between the United States and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.
"The problems are not between the United States and Jordan, but between Israel and Jordan. Why cross an ocean when you can cross a river? Why should we sail to Washington when we can meet right away 10 miles from here?" Peres said.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz said Friday that the United States was seeking ways to show "broad international support" for new direct talks between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. This has apparently triggered Israeli concern that Washington may also be edging toward acceptance of Hussein's proposal for the talks to take place under the auspices of an international conference in which the Soviet Union would participate.
The United States has long said it stands ready to negotiate with the PLO once it publicly endorses U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which incorporate the principle of Israel giving back occupied Arab lands in return for Arab recognition.
Only since Hussein's declaration here that he has a firm commitment from PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to the explicit acceptance of these resolutions has the prospect suddenly arisen that the United States might end up holding talks with the PLO. Shultz said Friday, however, that Washington was still waiting to hear directly from Arafat that he accepts the two key resolutions.
Shultz also said Washington saw no role for the Soviet Union in any new peace talks and clearly indicated that the United States and Jordan were at odds on this point.
Nonetheless, Rabin said he was concerned about administration officials' use of the term "international umbrella," which he said was "contradictory to our common experience, of Israel, the United States and I think also Egypt in the last 12 years."
"Whenever somebody mentions to me umbrella, I don't know why, it reminds me of Chamberlain and Munich," he remarked at one point. He was referring to the late British prime minister Neville Chamberlain and his meeting in 1938 with Adolf Hitler in Munich, where Chamberlain agreed to the German takeover of the German-speaking areas of Czechoslovakia.
Rabin, who yesterday met with Shultz, Defense Secretary Caspar W. Weinberger and other top administration officials, said he was also concerned about what he called "signs here of readiness to talk to a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation which does not exclude totally members of the PLO."
The Israeli official said Israel was ready to accept Palestinians from the West Bank or Gaza Strip, "or any other Palestinians," provided they were not members of the PLO "or PLO organizations."
This appeared to be a direct reference to the Palestine National Council, the Palestinian parliament-in-exile that is closely associated with the PLO. The United States has left open the possibility of meeting with non-PLO members of the council as part of a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation.