JERUSALEM, JUNE 13 -- Israel's new foreign minister, David Levy, charged today that a U.S. plan for Israeli-Palestinian talks had "distorted" the Israeli peace initiative it was meant to implement, and he called for a fresh start in diplomatic contacts between Israel and the Bush administration.
Levy bluntly dismissed the plan of Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who asked Israel last year to agree to a formula for meeting a delegation of Palestinians in Cairo. The subject of the talks was to have been how to carry out a proposal by Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir for elections of Palestinian representatives in the occupied territories.
"The Israeli government peace initiative has been changed and distorted and turned into questions, the Baker questions, to which Israel was required to answer 'yes' or 'no,' " Levy told reporters after a welcoming ceremony at the Foreign Ministry, adding, "No nation can be asked to gamble with its own survival."
Levy, who strongly opposed the Baker plan in a debate earlier this year that precipitated the fall of the last Israeli government, said the Bush administration should "get back to basics" with Israel by reaffirming its opposition to the creation of a Palestinian state and promising not to force Israel to negotiate with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
"If we can agree on these principles," Levy said, "all the rest will follow."
The remarks were among several tough political signals dispatched by the new right-wing government on its first full day in office.
Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who previously was foreign minister, began his new job by visiting two large Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and promising that the Army would provide them with more protection from the Palestinian uprising.
Another new appointee, Agriculture Minister Rafael Eitan of the right-wing Crossroads Party, called for the expulsion of Palestinian leaders from the country. He told army radio that "instead of shooting children" in the territories, "you have to deport those responsible, the inciters, the organizers."
Israel has deported about 60 Palestinian activists since the beginning of the uprising, but it has not used the measure in more than a year, in part because of strong criticism from the United States.
In an interview in the Jerusalem Post, Shamir affirmed that the government intends to take new measures to protect Jews living in the occupied territories and said existing settlements would be expanded, despite opposition from the United States.
"The emphasis will be on the existence and the strengthening of the now-existing settlements," the Post quoted him as saying. "There must be some development. One cannot mark time."
Tuesday, Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, Shamir's hard-line rival in the Likud, rebuffed a renewed call by Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev for assurances from Israel that Soviet Jewish immigrants will not be settled in the territories.
Israel contends that it has no policy to send immigrants to the West Bank and Gaza Strip but will not stop them from going there.
Despite the tough positions taken by the government's new leaders, aides to Shamir said one of his top priorities is to rebuild his badly frayed ties to the Bush administration. Officials said that in the last three months, communication between Washington and Jerusalem has almost completely broken down. Neither President Bush nor Baker has spoken with Shamir or other senior Israeli officials, the sources said, in the three months since the former "unity" government split over a response to Baker's proposals.
Aides to Shamir today attributed the interruption of communications to the absence, until Tuesday, of a stable Israeli administration, although they said that Bush had not sent Shamir any message of congratulation following the new government's approval Monday by the parliament. They said Shamir has not yet decided on a strategy for renewing ties with the United States, although he hopes to be invited to Washington in the coming weeks for meetings with Bush and Baker. "The priority is to return to dialogue with the United States," said Avi Pazner, a senior aide to Shamir. "But how to do it has not yet been decided."