Once the euphoria that accompanied the Madrid Peace Conference dissipated, the United States began to plan the next moves. It proposed that the next phase, that of bilateral talks, be held in Washington starting on 4 December. Israel feared that the American umbrella will enable the Arabs to evade direct talks and will retain the international accompaniment which Israel wanted to remove from the process. It preferred negotiations in the Middle East and barring that, a European capital. But finally it agreed to come to Washington, provided that the American capital serve as venue for the talks for two or three rounds, each of four days' duration and then the talks be moved to the Middle East. The following statement clarified the Israeli position on the next stage of the talks:
Israel seeks to continue the peace process as soon as possible in direct negotiations between the parties to the conflict. Needless to say, Washington, D.C. is regarded by us as an hospitable city and as the capital of a friendly nation. But we have constantly restated at all levels that for the negotiations to be effective, they must be held in the region, for the following reasons:
- We have grounds to believe that the Arabs are interested not in talking with us and conducting direct negotiations, but rather in talking with the U.S., and through them to try and exert pressure on Israel.
- The Arabs are aiming at a framework that would be an extension of the Madrid conference, i.e. one that would be as close as possible to an international conference, and as distant as possible from the direct negotiations framework, free of the involvement of other elements.
- The proposal to hold the three meetings simultaneously in Washington, D.C. would bring all the Arab delegations together beneath one roof. Experience has shown that under these circumstances, the lowest common denominator prevails - the extreme position takes over and the chances of true negotiations are diminished.
We are facing negotiations that are to be held simultaneously with three Arab factors. The contents of the negotiations are of utmost importance to the security and future of the State of Israel. It is therefore necessary that the negotiations be held in a location that is near the top political decision-making level, to facilitate close contact, constant consultation and continuous guidance for the negotiators.
In light of the above and in consideration of the American invitation, and out of respect to the U.S., Israel is prepared to conduct one or two meetings in Washington, D.C., so that subsequently, the negotiations will be held in the region or its vicinity. Israel also proposes to hold the meetings on three separate dates, with a time-span of four to five days between each one, with the first group convening on 9 December 1991.
Israel is hopeful that the negotiations will indeed resume as soon as possible, and that the Arab sides will view them and conduct them as direct negotiations with us - as was agreed. This is the surest way to proceed and to attain the desired goal of peace.