Israel’s May 1989 Peace Initiative

What was Israel’s May 1989 peace initiative?

In September, 1985 Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres launched a peace initiative centered on Jordan, including a proposal for an international conference. The United States “encouraged” Israeli, Egyptian, and Jordanian diplomatic efforts but Yitzhak Shamir and the Likud party opposed the idea of an international conference since such Israel’s policy had always been to have bi-lateral negotiations.


The Arab uprising known as the first intifada brought immense pressure upon Israel from the US and other nations to make concessions to the Arabs in order to stop the violence. After Yasser Arafat's announcement of renunciation of terrorism and a recognition of Israel's right to exist in 1988, the Shamir government of Israel had to formulate a response.

Believing that the final political status of the inhabitants of these areas should be determined within the framework of an overall Middle East peace settlement, Israel presented a peace initiative of their own, developed through an intense debate within Israel's government. The Israeli peace initiative, announced May 14, 1989 was formulated by Prime Minister Shamir (Likud) and Defence Minister Rabin (Labor) representing the consensus of Israel policy in the National Unity government, although bitterly opposed by many of Shamir's colleagues in the Likud.

The plan consisted of four basic points:

  • Strengthing the peace with Egypt as a regional cornerstone
  • Promoting full peaceful relations with the Arab states
  • Improving refugee conditions though international efforts
  • Palestinian elections and interim self-rule for a five year period leading to a "permanent solution"

There were also several "Basic Premises" set forth that were a non-negotiable part of the initiative:

  • Israel opposed the establishment of an additional Palestinian state in the Gaza district and in the area between Israel and Jordan
  • Israel would not conduct negotiations with the PLO
  • There would be no change in the status of Judea, Samaria and Gaza other than in accordance with the "basic guidelines of the government"

This initiative was based on the Camp David Accords, and in turn, formed the basis of the Baker Plan that led to the 1991 Madrid Conference Middle East peace negotiations.

During the five year transition, Israel proposed to remain responsible for defense, foreign affairs and all "matters pertaining to Israeli citizens". The plan explained in great detail the process of elections and, following the Camp David formula, states that no later "than the third year after the establishment of self-rule negotiations for a permanent solution shall begin."

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