U.S. taps rich friends to pay for Palestinian rule Cost of governing put in the billions

September 02, 1993|By Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON -- While Israelis and Palestinians struggled yesterday to wrap up the final details of their precedent-shattering peace agreement, the Clinton administration turned to the task of pressuring the world's wealthy nations to contribute the billions of dollars needed to establish Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

A senior State Department official said the United States is prepared to put up some money to subsidize Palestinian police, schools and other government agencies. But the United States can no longer afford to pay the entire cost, as it did more than a decade ago when Israel and Egypt signed the first Arab-Israeli peace treaty.

To get the rest of the funds, the official said, Secretary of State Warren Christopher is notifying oil-rich Arab states of the Persian Gulf and major industrial nations, such as the six countries that participate with the United States in the annual Group of Seven economic summit, the official said.

Former Secretary of State James Baker collected much of the cost of U.S. military operations in the war against Iraq from many of those same countries -- Japan, Great Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada. Asked if Mr. Christopher planned to break out Mr. Baker's "tin cup," the official said, "We already are ,, doing that."

The official said no decision has been made yet about the size of the required fund. But Middle East specialists estimate that it will cost about $1 billion up front for capital expenses and about $250 million annually to support government operations. The Palestine Liberation Organization, which is expected to control the West Bank and Gaza governmental institutions, is nearly bankrupt because Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other rich patrons ended their support after the organization backed Iraq in the Persian Gulf War.

Elsewhere in Washington, the Israeli and Palestinian delegations the peace talks bided their time while higher-ranking Israeli and PLO officials bargained over conditions for mutual recognition. Talks in Oslo, Norway, ended yesterday, but sources on both sides said agreement is expected within the next few days.

The breakthrough in the negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is expected to bring rapid progress in Israel's talks with Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres noted that Israel and Jordan had agreed more than four months ago on a negotiating agenda that outlines a future peace treaty, and said there are no outstanding issues.

"This depends totally on Jordan," Mr. Peres said when asked about comments by Jordanian officials in Amman that this "declaration of principles" was ready for signing.

"We agreed on an agenda for peace a long time ago, and we are now down to discussing trifles -- whether mosquitoes need visas to fly from Eilat to Aqaba. Jordan can sign tomorrow morning."

Israeli officials believe, however, that Jordan probably will be the last of the four Arab parties in the Washington talks to sign a full treaty. "With us, they can afford to wait," a senior official in Jerusalem said, "but with the other Arabs they cannot afford to get ahead and give offense."

King Hussein, moreover, is clearly annoyed that the PLO and Israel had moved so far and so secretly, although he has long had his own secret channels with Israel. Yesterday, the king called for an Arab summit to discuss the PLO-Israeli accord. Jordanian officials have also expressed concern about the political implications of a Palestinian government on the West Bank and Gaza Strip for their country, which is about 60 percent Palestinian.

Mr. Peres said his government will issue a statement recognizing the PLO as a legitimate political movement once the organization meets Israeli conditions committing the Palestinians to peaceful coexistence with the Jewish state.

Israel wants the PLO to remove from its charter the calls for the destruction of Israel, to acknowledge Israel's existence and legitimacy, to renounce terrorism and commit itself to the political resolution of disputes and to accept again two basic U.N. Security Council resolutions as the basis for settling the Middle East conflict.

PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat, who returned to PLO headquarters in the Tunisian capital of Tunis yesterday after a tour of a number of Arab capitals, may try to push such a declaration through at a meeting of the PLO central committee called for today.

Israeli officials said Palestinian negotiators encountered objections to some of the wording from PLO factions. They said Mr. Arafat was working to find a compromise that would keep his coalition together.

The Israeli Cabinet approved an agreement Monday that had been hammered out during months of secret negotiations in Oslo, establishing conditions for Palestinian self-government in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, starting with Gaza and the West Bank town of Jericho.

Israel and the PLO have not yet agreed on who will sign the historic pact. The Palestinians want a senior PLO official to sign for their side, but Israel is reluctant to give the organization that much visibility.

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