The Israeli government is willing to work with Egypt in developing a Middle East peace plan but insists the proposal must be based on the "old, good wine" of the 1978 Camp David accords, administration officials say.
Aides to Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Monday the Israeli leader was studying ways to advance the peace process and was willing to meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The Egyptian leader told a Kuwaiti newspaper Saturday he was ready to travel to Israel for talks aimed at a "realization of a just peace.""Mr. Shamir is now working on new ideas on how to further the peace process, ideas which he has not specified yet," said Avi Pazner, the prime minister's spokesman. "So I think those ideas will be ready sometime, he hasn't said exactly."
Pazner and Yosi Achimeier, another Shamir spokesman, both said the prime minister's new ideas would be based on the 1978 Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel. Negotiations based on the accords, which Shamir has long insisted should be the starting point for peace talks, broke down in 1982.
"I would not say that it is a new peace initiative. It is the old good wine, which is the Camp David plan," Achimeier said. "On this basis, the prime minister is ready to suggest some new ideas in order to promote peace in the Middle East."
The peace accords signed by Egypt and Israel at Camp David on Sept. 17, 1978, called for negotiations on setting up a "self-governing authority" for Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, with Palestinian councils eventually replacing the existing Israeli administration.
Shamir's spokesmen denied his announcement was part of a public relations offensive to offset gains made by the Palestine Liberation Organization after the declaration of an independent Palestinian state in the occupied territories and the decision of the United States to open talks with the PLO.
"Shamir is not one who is famous with his public relations and his public relations maneuvers. His deeds are honest, and that is why his declarations are so honest," Achimeier said. "He is serious about it. If he didn't have something in mind, he would not declare it."
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering told a news conference that Shamir appeared to be working on the new Israeli government's approach to the peace process.
"We have clear signals . . . from the prime minister that he is working on the subject, that he has ideas he wants to put forward," Pickering said. "At this stage . . . the government needs a time in which to carefully examine all of the various possibilities and then decide, hopefully in consultation with the United States and perhaps others."
Shamir's announcement came one day after Mubarak told a Kuwaiti newspaper he would be willing to visit Israel if it would "lead to a solution of the (Palestinian) problem and to the realization of a just peace."
"I am ready," Mubarak said. "But let me be clear. I don't go anywhere unless I am sure there is a gain or a result from traveling."
In his interview on Israel Television, Shamir said he would welcome a visit from Mubarak, adding, "I am convinced that if we meet, we will reach positive results."
Egypt is the only Arab nation to make peace with Israel. The two countries signed a peace treaty after Egyptian President Anwar Sadat's historic visit to Jerusalem in 1977.