Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir will visit President Reagan March 16 amid "new urgency" about unrest in Israeli-occupied territories, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater announced yesterday.
"It is fair to say that the problems of the West Bank and Gaza have given new urgency to this," Fitzwater said.
Administration officials stressed that the visit is not indicative of a new U.S. drive to revive the stalemated Middle East peace process.
Other administration officials, who asked not to be identified, said planning for Shamir's trip has been under way since his last visit in November when he met with Reagan for only 20 minutes because the president was busy preparing for his December summit.
The officials, noting that the visit is almost two months away, said it should be viewed as part of continuing U.S. consultations on the Middle East that are to include talks here next week with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The officials said that, after failure last year of several U.S. efforts to rekindle the process, the administration feels that various parties to the conflict have begun to show more flexibility.
The administration is known to believe that much of the problem is the result of the Israeli coalition government's inability to agree on a formula for engaging Jordan's King Hussein in peace talks.
Yossi Beilin, secretary general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, came here this week to tell U.S. officials and journalists that the situation in the territories underscores the urgency for a new U.S. effort to foster peace talks.
However, the U.S. officials recalled that when Secretary of State George P. Shultz visited Israel in November, he found that Shamir was unyielding in opposition to an international conference that would serve as a cover for direct negotiations with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation and that other ideas proposed by Shultz were unacceptable to Hussein.