WASHINGTON (Oct. 9)
President Reagan, stressing the United States commitment to help in “revitalizing the Israeli economy and putting it on the road to sustained recovery, ” announced today that he and Premier Shimon Peres have agreed to the establishment of a joint economic development group to cooperate toward achieving this goal.
“We have agreed to explore with Israel ways to enhance its growth and development prospects through structural adjustment, increased trade and investment, as well as American aid, ” Reagan said in a farewell statement in the White House Rose Garden after a two-hour meeting with Peres and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
Reagan said that he and Peres have also instructed their negotiators on the Free Trade Area (FTA) between the two countries to reach an agreement within 30 days. The President said this agreement, which he noted was the first FTA between the United States and another country, by expanding Israel’s export market will be important to helping Israel on the way to economic recovery and it will also be a boost for the United States. Peres stressed that the new unity government he heads is “determined to tackle our economic difficulties head on.” He added that the “support of the President, the United States government and the American people is source of strength and inspiration to all of us.”
NEW U.S.-ISRAELI HARMONY CITED
The Israeli Premier, who met with Reagan previously as the leader of the Israeli opposition, said that his meetings in Washington the last two days have left him with the belief that “relations between the United States and Israel have reached a new level of harmony and understanding.”
He expressed the gratitude of all Israelis to “the President, the Congress, and foremost, the people of the United States for the lasting friendship existing between our two peoples and countries.”
Peres added that “I found in the White House a true friend of Israel who understands her problems and dilemmas, is aware of her difficulties and follows her efforts to face them.”
Reagan earlier said he wanted to pay “special tribute to the leadership qualities” of both Peres and Shamir for having “shown courage and determination to put aside partisan politics joining together in a government of national unity to deal with Israel’s most pressing problems.”
Peres noted that “the government of national unity was formed in the united city of Jerusalem in the spirit of the words of prophet Ezekial who said, ‘I shall give them an undivided heart and a new spirit’.”
He said the new government is “united in our confidence in the United States of American … in our desire for peace … in our desire to bring our boys back from Lebanon provided that the security of the northern part of Israel will be guaranteed.”
Reagan also noted Israel’s desire to leave Lebanon. “The United States stands ready to help, provided the parties concerned want the United States to play this role and are committed to finding the answers to the difficult issue involved,” Reagan said.
While Israel has been urging the U.S. to play a mediator role to allow an Israeli pull-out, a senior Administration official said later today that there have so far been no signs from Syria that it wants the U.S. to play such a role. The U.S. has been reluctant to become involved without the agreement of all the parties. The official said that there was no formal request from Peres for the U.S. to act as mediator.
In his remarks today, Peres expressed “my hope that the United States will continue to play an important role in reducing tension in our region and revitalizing the peace process.”
U.S. COMMITMENT TO ISRAEL’S SECURITY STRESSED
Reagan, who said he stressed to Peres “our fundamental commitment to Israel’s national security,” said that he also gave him “our firm commitment to the goal of a just and lasting peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbors.” He said the ingredients in this were United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, the Camp David accords and the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Reagan added that he “reaffirmed today my initiative of September 1, 1982” which he said contained proposals “designed to bring the parties to the negotiating table presumably with their own positions. “The Administration official said Peres did not repeat Israel’s rejection of the Reagan initiative today but he noted that Peres, in a television interview last month, said he did not oppose the initiative, just the specific proposals.
Reagan noted that consultations have been going on between the U.S. and Israel on security assistance programs in a “way that contributes most effectively to Israel’s overall national security and maintenance of its qualitative edge.” He said that Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger will be in Israel next week to discuss security matters.
OPEN, WIDE-RANGING TALKS
The Administration official who briefed reporters on the White House talks today said the Adminstration stressed to the Israelis that it is determined to have close ties with its Arab friends. The official said that also discussed was the need for a mutual dialogue with Jordan, Israeli relations with Egypt and the “quality of life” on the West Bank. He said the talks were “very open” and “extraordinarily” wide-ranging.
But the official stressed that the economy dominated most of the conversations at the White House today and between Peres and Secretary of State George Shultz yesterday and today. He said the new joint working group will meet twice a year, alternately in Washington and Jerusalem. It will comprise government officials from various departments and private Israeli and U.S. economists who would act as advisers.
The official noted that although various figures on additional U.S. aid to Israel was discussed, no firm figure was agreed upon and probably would not be until after the new joint committee meets. An Israeli official noted that no new figure would be proposed until the new Congress meets, and by that time there will be a better picture on how the economic measures taken by the new Israeli government are working.