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The Peres Three Point Plan

02 October 2002

By Yisrael Ne’eman

In an interview with the Voice of Israel this morning Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres announced his three point program for his continuing efforts to build a ‘New Middle East’.  The US must deal with Iraq, the Palestinians are obligated to implement their reforms and Israel has to engage in permanent status negotiations with the new Palestinian leadership for the benefit of all, but especially to improve its sagging economy.  Simple but very involved and complicated.

Peres elaborated at length about the Palestinian reforms, attacked the recent IDF operation in the Mukata which reinstated Palestinian Authority Chairman Arafat’s ‘relevancy’ at least for the moment and lamented the fact that Palestinian moderate Abu Mazen and the ‘alternative’ leadership was now outmaneuvered.  Arafat’s popularity has risen (at least temporarily) and he has now crushed any attempt to instate Abu Mazen as prime minister.  And lest one forget Peres is a senior member of the government responsible for the move against Arafat and the Mukata.

Negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians are designed to end the conflict.  There is a return to Oslo and the peace process.  A negotiated settlement is expected to bring about economic prosperity and the vision of a ‘New Middle East’.

What was omitted is more important than what was said as the whole Iraqi issue is passed by in half a sentence.  Very little can move on the Palestinian – Israeli front until the US finishes with Iraq and the time table will only begin this winter (or maybe later).  America must have a complete and unconditional victory for Arafat to begin to get the message of reform implementation and even then the world’s most experienced, longest surviving terrorist can still refuse to cooperate is he believes he has the support of his own people and the Arab/Moslem world behind him.  Much also depends on whether he still enjoys UN sponsored immunity (most probably).

As for negotiations with Palestinian realists and moderates, this is contingent upon the reforms.

So what is Peres really saying?  With his own Labor party in complete disarray and the international situation completely up in the air over Iraq Peres is suggesting a positive plan of action to keep Labor in the government until the regularly scheduled elections of Oct. 2003.  Starting the process is dependent upon the Americans as is the pace of advancement, at least in the ‘Iraqi stages’.  For Labor to leave the government today would be viewed as extremely irresponsible by the public at large.

Labor commands only 15% support among the Israeli electorate today and a wrong step or two could lead the party to complete disaster.  Peres knows this for sure as do most Laborites.

And so does Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.