Baker Plan, 1989

What was 1989 Baker peace plan?

In a key speech delivered in May 1989 to AIPAC, US Secretary of State James Baker III placed the blame on Israel for the Arab-Israel conflict, and seemed to echo Arab propaganda, urging Israeli leaders to abandon the “unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel” that includes the West Bank and Gaza Strip. He then laid out the American position on what is now called the Arab-Israeli peace process. He urged self-government for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza in a manner acceptable to Palestinians, Israel, and Jordan, a formula designed to provide ample scope for Palestinians to achieve their full political rights while also providing ample protection for Israel’s security. This utopian vision has failed to materialize.


Following up on Israel's Four Point Plan of May 1989 in September 1989, Egypt and Israel discussed several peace proposals that foundered over the issue of participation by the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). At that time, it was the firm policy of Israel not to deal with the PLO, believing that 1988 PLO statements about a change of policy toward Israel were not sincere. In an attempt to help break the deadlock, the US became more actively involved.

On November 1, 1989, US Secretary of State Baker formally submitted his Five-Point Election Plan to Israel and Egypt, although they had reviewed drafts beforehand. It was based on Israel's Four Point Plan of May 1989 and did not go into detail. It was intended as a framework under which Egypt would facilitate bringing Palestinian Arabs (but not the PLO) into a process of discussion about elections to establish proper representation for the Palestinians, and potentially other issues.

Israel agreed in principle in November but attached two reservations: that the PLO not be involved in the naming of Palestinian delegates and that the discussions be limited to preparations for the elections. The Israel National Unity government fell in March 1990 in a vote of no confidence precipitated by disagreement over the government's response to the Baker initiative. Prime Minister Shamir formed a new government in June 1990 and rejected the Baker Plan. Baker attempted to work with Shamir who continued to reject Baker's five point plan, even after most of the Israeli demands had been accepted. Shamir's government took the view that the plan was too risky and the US was willing to sacrifice Israel and the Jewish people for their own interests. Frustrated by this process, Baker sarcastically provided the White House telephone number suggesting that Shamir call when he was "serious about peace".

Baker's reputation was as a deal maker, and an artful mediator. However, he is known as more pro-Arab than pro-Israel and has been quoted as making anti-Semitic remarks.

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