NEW YORK (Oct. 20)
Israel is “sincerely looking for the opportunity to make peace with Jordan,” because the alternative is war, Prime Minister Shimon Peres told more than 500 prominent American Jewish leaders from major communities throughout the United States attending an Israel Bonds dinner at the New York Hilton Hotel last night.
“Israel is capable of defending herself,” Peres declared, but “Israel is interested in sitting down and negotiating peace with Jordan. Israel also wants to solve the Palestinian problem by diplomatic means, Peres said.
He said that reaching peace with Jordan is not an “easy task,” but Israel must achieve it because the only other alternative is continued war and violence. “I believe there are Arabs who feel the same as we do. I believe that if Jordan seeks peace, she wants it because she needs it, the same way as we do,” Peres said.
The Premier said that Israel is interested in finding a solution to the Palestinian problem. He charged, however, that the militant and extremist Palestinian leadership has been thwarting any attempt to reach an agreement since the establishment of Israel. “Now they are trying to destroy the chances for peace,” Peres said.
He expressed the hope, however, that leaders of other Arab countries and moderate Palestinian leaders in the West Bank and Gaza would join the peace effort together with Israel.
Peres said that despite recent disputes with Egypt, Israel is committed to its peace with Egypt and would continue to improve relations between the two countries.
CONFIRMS U.S. PILOTS AIDED OPERATION MOSES
Peres’ appearance last night was his first public appearance since he arrived here Friday from Washington, after holding talks with President Reagan and other Administration officials. Peres described the friendship between Israel and the U.S. as strong and deep. He said that relations in the last year had greatly improved, and that the two countries have reached “more understanding and friendship” in the last 12 months.
Thanking Reagan for the role the U.S. played in Operation Moses — the airlift of Ethiopian Jews to Israel — Peres said it was American pilots who flew the planes that brought the Ethiopian Jews from the Sudan. This was the first time an Israeli official confirmed participation by American pilots in the airlift.
He also praised the United States for its recent action against terrorism, as was demonstrated in the Achille Lauro affair. He said that the U.S. stopped its rhetoric against terrorism and took action instead.
Reporting on his meeting with President Reagan in Washington, Peres said that one of the major topics was the fate of Soviet Jewry. He said the President agreed that the issue was important and that he agreed to bring it up at his upcoming meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Turning to the economic situation in Israel, Peres said that the austerity program, undertaken by the national unity government, had shown better results than anticipated. He expressed thanks to the U.S. for the help extended to Israel to solve its economic crisis but he noted, however, that the people of Israel are the ones who should be credited with the success of the economic program by taking sharp cuts in their salaries and in tightening their belts. The Prime Minister said that he asked the United States to help Israel in the second stage of its economic recovery — “the growth stage.” He said that Israel wants the U.S. to help it build an infrastructure for hi-tech and science industries.
Concluding his remarks, Peres said, “We are proud of American Jewry.” He called for a joint effort of the Jewish people to save Jews in plight anywhere in the world; to help Israel recover its economy; and to work with Israel to reach peace with its neighbors.
OVER $32 MILLION PLEDGED FOR BOND CAMPAIGN
The dinner last night was chaired by Jack Weiler who serves as international chairman of the Israel Presidents’ Club of Israel Bonds. More than $32 million were pledged last night for the Israel Bond campaign of 1986.
Peres spent Friday evening at the Fifth Avenue Synagogue and then attended a dinner given by Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress. Yesterday morning, Peres had breakfast with Mayor Edward Koch and then lunch with Kenneth Bialkin, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The Prime Minister was joined at breakfast this morning by heads of Jewish religious academies, and later in the day he had lunch with artists and writers. Both events took place in the St. Regis Hotel, where the Prime Minister is staying.