WASHINGTON (Nov. 12)
The ambassadors of Israel and Egypt agreed here that there is an opportunity for peace in the Middle East, but differed over the role the United States should play in achieving it.
Israeli Ambassador Meir Rosenne, while stressing that the U.S. has and will continue to play an important role in the Mideast peace process, said that any attempt to impose a settlement from the outside cannot be successful.
“Any attempt to impose a settlement from the outside encourages the Arab countries that refuse to negotiate with Israel to keep on refusing,” Rosenne said in a joint appearance with Egyptian ambassador Ashraf Ghorbal Friday at a luncheon of the Overseas Writers.
PARTNER, NOT SOLUTIONS, LACKING
“What we lack has not been solutions but a partner to negotiations,” the Israeli envoy declared, stressing that negotiations must be without preconditions. “If there is any Arab state ready to negotiate with Israel, Israel will be at the negotiating table in 24 hours or less. Unfortunately, we see no such partner for the time being.”
Ghorbal, who retires this months after 10 years as the Egyptian envoy here, urged the newly-re-elected Reagan Administration to seize what he called a “window of opportunity” in the Mideast. He said the Administration had about a year to act in which to achieve progress in Lebanon, the Golan Heights and the West Bank and Gaza.
There is “movement of moderates on both sides of the fencebetween Israelis and Arabs,” Ghorbal said. “It’s high time to make excellent use of it on a priority basis.”
Ghorbal said the U.S. has the trust of all parties in the Mideast and if it does not play a leading role it will leave it to others to do so. He predicted that if progress is made the “hardliners” will either have to join the peace effort or be left a minority in the “new Middle East.”
GHORBAL URGES TALKS WITH PLO
The Egyptian envoy said that if Israel wants direct negotiations with the Arabs it should also include the Palestine Liberation Organization. “The PLO whether Israel likes it or not are so far the leader of the Palestinian nation,” Ghorbal said. He added that no Arab elected Menachem Begin or Shimon Peres as Premier of Israel and “Israel has no right to choose for the Arabs their own representatives.”
But Rosenne replied that “no Palestinian chose (Yasir) Arafat” and “certainly he does not represent the Palestinian Arabs.” He said that while Palestinians living under Israeli rule want a “change in their situation” most of them don’t want to destroy Israel as is called for by the PLO charter.
Rosenne said that the Palestinians in Judaea, Samaria and Gaza, can elect their own representatives as is called for in the autonomy plan proposed by the Camp David accords. In addition, he noted that the Palestinian people did not make war on Israel but that sovereign Arab states did and most Arabs on the West Bank are Jordanian citizens.
Israel is ready to negotiate with Jordan either on the basis of the Camp David process or with no preconditions, Rosenne said. Asked about Reagan’s Sept. 1, 1982 peace initiative which the Likud government rejected, Rosenne said that the present unity government has taken no position on it.
Ghorbal said that Israeli moderation was demonstrated by an implied freeze on Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza by the Peres government. Rosenne said that the issue of settlements has been “exaggerated” since he does not believe it has prevented peace. He noted that during the 19 years when Jordan ruled the West Bank there were no Jewish settlements and there was no peace.
“If the whole idea of the Middle East is to see Jews and Arabs living together, in the same way as you have in Israel proper 700,000 Israelis that are Arabs, we don’t see why Jews and Arabs couldn’t live together in an area like Judaea and Samaria,” Rosenne declared.