JERUSALEM, OCT. 2 -- The Soviet Union offered to establish low-level diplomatic ties with Israel, but Foreign Minister Shimon Peres rejected the proposal because he wants full diplomatic relations, a ministry spokesman said today.
The offer came after months of behind-the-scenes contacts. In a meeting with Peres last week in New York, Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze proposed opening offices in Tel Aviv and Moscow that would be staffed with low-ranking officials, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ehud Gol said.
"We told the Russians that with them, we should have a full level of diplomatic relations and not limit ourselves to interest sections," Gol said.
Israeli sources said the decision to reject the Soviet offer came after intense debate in the coalition government. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, head of the right-wing Likud bloc, is known to take a harder line than Peres, leader of the Labor Party, in making concessions to the Soviets.
Cabinet members who were ready to accept the Soviet offer argued that it would hasten a gradual restoration of ties, said the sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.
An eight-member Soviet consular delegation has been in Israel since July 12. It is the first official Soviet group to visit the country in 20 years, and it is expected to extend its stay another three months.
The Soviet Union and all Soviet Bloc countries except Romania severed ties with Israel after the June 1967 Arab-Israeli war. Poland and Hungary recently have restored limited ties with Israel.
Peres has said restoration of full diplomatic relations would be a condition for Soviet participation in a proposed international Middle East peace conference. Moscow has insisted that full diplomatic ties are not possible until Israel returns land captured in the 1967 war.