WASHINGTON (Apr. 24)
Shimon Peres, chairman of Israel’s Labor Party, turned down suggestions that President Carter leans toward the views of President Anwar Sadat of Egypt in the autonomy negotiations with Israel and said here today that the President’s “main interest is to maintain the momentum of peace in the Middle East” and is seeking “a middle road” on “full autonomy” for the West Bank and Gaza.
Peres, the first leader of an Israeli opposition party ever invited to the White House, met with Carter privately for a half-hour today and later for an additional 15 minutes in company with Vice President Walter Mondale, Secretary of State Cyrus Vance and Israel’s Ambassador Ephraim Evron.
When he emerged from the White House, with Mondale bidding him farewell, Peres was asked if he thought Carter takes sides with Sadat and against Israel in view of his statements that Jewish settlements on the West Bank are illegal and an obstacle to peace and his emphasis on “full autonomy” for the Palestinians within the meaning of what are reporter called “dictionary” terms.
“I think the President is sincerely interested in peace in the Middle East,” Peres responded. “I think this is his major consideration rather than any particular solution. His main interest is to maintain the momentum of peace in the Middle East — an area that is today loaded with pressing and dangerous issues. I am referring to the Russian thrust, the future of the Persian Gulf, the very extreme religious streaks that have emerged recently in some of the countries.”
CARTER’S FOUR BASIC POINTS
Asked about Carter’s views on settlements and “full autonomy,” Peres said “The Begin government — all of us — agree with the Camp David language on full autonomy. Autonomy is less than independence and more than the present situation. But where exactly is the middle ? it is about this point that we are now negotiating.”
Peres was asked if Carter is closer to Sadat than to Premier Menachem Begin on autonomy. He replied, “if I understood correctly what he (Carter) told me, he is looking for a middle way between the two positions.” Peres said Carter stated four “basic points. “He said these were a united Jerusalem; no Palestinian state; no negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization; and keeping the “spirit” of the Camp David agreements.
Asked by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency if he had any indication of the views of Carter or others on sovereignty over all of Jerusalem, he answered, “no.”
FAVOR PARTICIPATION BY JORDAN
The Israeli Labor Party leader explained that “the majority” of his party has “some differences” with the Begin government about the West Bank, “namely, that we would like to see the Jordanians coming in and partaking in the negotiations on the Palestinian issue and the West Bank so to build a Jordanian-Palestinian framework in which the Palestinian issue can find its fair solution in the future.”
Asked about Carter’s response to this, Peres said “He was very interested in it. “He added, laughing, “I don’t think he become a member of the Labor Party or Likud. I gathered from him he is not taking part in Israeli politics or vice versa.”
THE BIBLE AND THE WEST BANK
Peres was questioned about the view that “the Bible deeds the occupied territories to the Jews,” on apparent reference by the reporter to the views expressed to Begin here last week by a group of Evangelical Christian ministers supporting Israel. Peres said, “The Bible is a document that deals with wider issues than just territories. I believe that Judaism is basically a moral commitment based on a homeland and that the Bible calls for peace, not just for territory.”
“There is no doubt,” he added, “that we have the right on the land. But we cannot deal just on historical assumptions. We have to look to the future and see how to guarantee the Jewish character of the State of Israel which is not just a numerical commitment but moral as well, and how to make peace with our neighbors. There is nothing in the Bible that forbids it.”
Asked if the settlements issue is making the peace process more difficult, Peres said “I don’t think the settlements as such are the issue. It is the future of the West Bank from which the settlement policy results. We have to decide the basic framework over the West Bank and then the settlement issue will become a matter of secondary nature.”
An aide to Peres told the JTA that when Peres addressed an Israel Bonds rally in Baltimore last night, he warned that should a territorial compromise be reached with new borders between Israel and a “Jordanian-Palestinian state,” Jewish settlements would be under foreign, Jordanian sovereignty.
Peres, who has also spoken in Miami, will be in New York over the weekend and will speak in Philadelphia and Boston next week before returning to Israel, the aide said. In addition to his meeting at the White House today, Peres met separately with Vance at the State Department. He was a guest at a breakfast at the Cosmos Club, arranged by Max Kampelman, a Washington lawyer who was a political supporter of the late Sen. Hubert Humphrey. Sens. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.) and Richard Stone (D.Fla.) were also at the breakfast. Peres is also scheduled to meet with Senate Minority Leader Howard Baker (R.Tenn.), and with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.