WASHINGTON (Aug. 10)
Shimon Peres, chairman of Israel’s opposition Labor Party, said today that while he was concerned about the recent difficulties between Israel and the United States, be believes if the Lebanese situation is resolved peacefully, the “rift will pass away.”
Peres said that during a 30-minute meeting with President Reagan at the White House this morning the President told him that negotiators were “very near solving” the problem of getting some 6,000 PLO terrorists to evacuate Beirut.
Peres said that the meetings with Reagan and earlier with Secretary of State George Shultz at the State Department were “very friendly.” He said Reagan had not expressed any “displeasure” with Israel. Peres, who is also scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger at the Pentagon, said the only message he would bring back to Israel from Washington was of “friendship and cooperation.”
Peres said he expressed to Reagan his “regret” for the loss of life in Lebanon. But he noted that Israel wants a peaceful solution and has allowed the negotiations to go on for eight weeks, even though militarily it could have taken over all of Beirut in 24 hours, in order to allow for a peaceful solution.
Peres said that Shultz had pointed out that some of the Arab countries are concerned about Israel’s intentions in Lebanon. “Israel wants to leave Lebanon, all of Lebanon the sooner the better,” Peres said. He said he agreed with Reagan when the President told him that the Lebanese situation has opened on opportunity for the “continuation of the peace momentum in the Middle East.” The Israeli official said he stressed that “we feel the time has come to solve the Palestinian problem.”
He said he told the President that the weakening of the PLO may encourage the residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and perhaps Jordan as well, to participate in the negotiations for a settlement of the Palestinian question.
Peres stressed that there is a need to “return to the Camp David agreement, not to lose the Egyptian participation. I think it is tremendously important that Egypt continues to play a key role in continuing the peace process.” He said that because of improved relations between Jordan and Egypt, Egypt may be able to bring Jordan into the negotiations.
As for the negotiations for the PLO evacuation from Beirut, Peres said that the agreement has been worked out except for the details. He said that Syria Jordan and Iraq have agreed to take some of the terrorists, but Egypt’s agreement is conditional on solving the Palestinian problem. This will take a long time, Peres noted.
WHITE HOUSE WELCOMES CABINET DECISION
Shortly after Peres’ meeting with Reagan, the White House issued a statement welcoming the Israeli Cabinet’s approval in principle of a U.S. plan to end the crisis in Lebanon.
The statement, issued by Deputy Press Secretary Larry Speakes, said: “We welcome the Israeli assessment as an essential element in getting the problem solved in Beirut. We are encouraged by the momentum and the peace process continues to build ….”
The statement added: “We remain cautiously optimistic that outstanding issues can be worked out.. It is our belief that negotiations can best move foward when the cease-fire is carefully observed by all parties.”
SAYS PALESTINIAN ISSUE MUST BE SOLVED
(In New York, JTA correspondent Yitzhak Rabi reported that Peres told a luncheon meeting of the United Jewish Appeal at the St. Regis Hotel yesterday: “I believe that as Jews we are not interested in governing 1.2 million Palestinians (on the West Bank and Gaza Strip) against their will.” He warned that if the “domination” of Israel over the Palestinians continues, Jews could one day become a minority in the Jewish State.
(Peres said, however, that although Israel has to find a solution to the Palestinian issue, it will never agree to negotiate with the PLO or to the establishment of a Palestinian state between Israel and Jordan. He said the Palestinian problem should be solved through negotiations between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.)
Peres’ visit to the U.S. is part of a series of special meetings sponsored by the UJA throughout the country. Others who will take part are Yosef Tekoah, former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, and Jewish Agency treasurer Akiva Lewinsky. They will brief UJA community leaders on the current Middle East crisis.
They will also join UJA national chairman Robert Loup and other national UJA leaders, who have just returned from a visit to Israel and Lebanon, in analyzing the enormous human and financial cost of the “Peace for Galitee” operation and its impact on the programs and services of the Jewish Agency.