NEW YORK (Nov. 19)
Shimon Peres, Israel’s Transportation and Communications Minister, said Friday that an Arab-Israeli peace conference in Geneva might be doomed if “radical elements” like Libya and Iraq will participate. Speaking at a press conference at the Israeli Consulate here, Peres asserted that a factor in a successful peace conference is “Soviet restraint.” If the USSR will continue to supply the Arabs, Peres said, “I am afraid that the Arabs’ temper won’t stand the temptation of starting up another war.” Peres, who is here for a United Jewish Appeal fund-raising campaign, said that the peace conference, reportedly to open next month, will deal first with “disengagement” of the Israeli and Arab armies.
Answering a question on the Bab el Mandeb blockade, Peres said that the blockade “will be tested rather soon by Israel,” by sending an Israeli ship into the area. Peres contended that the cease-fire is not limited to the ground and includes air and sea as well, and because of that Israel believes the blockade will be lifted. Asked if the government has to participate in a peace conference before the elections, Peres hinted that the timing of the conference is not solely in the hand of Israel. “We have a partner to the negotiations. If we did not have a partner I can assure you that the war and the negotiations would not be a problem at all,” he said.
Peres said, in response to a question about Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s speech in Peking suggesting a U.S. treaty guaranteeing Israel’s security, that Israel did not receive “any concrete plan” from Washington “nor did we receive the exact wording” of Kissinger’s speech. The Israelis, Peres continued, would like to see Israel’s security guaranteed by Israel itself. Pointing out that the war cost Israel as much as $6 billion; Peres said that the Israeli economy is “deeply affected” as a result of the war. He reported that Israel absorbed some 5000 new immigrants during the last month and said that efforts to reactivate the economy are under way. Peres expressed deep concern as to the fate of Israeli POWs in Syria. “We are concerned because the Syrians treated the POWs in a “terrible way,” he said.