WASHINGTON (Oct. 20)
Israeli Premier Shimon Peres ended a two-day visit to Washington Friday by placing the onus for the next step in the Middle East peace process on King Hussein of Jordan.
“Our plan is clear,” Peres said at a press conference at the Israel Embassy before leaving for New York City. “Let’s meet as soon as possible, let’s negotiate directly, let’s negotiate without preconditions.”
Peres said Israel “will listen with great care to any Jordanian proposal.” He added that he expected that Israel would reject the initial Jordanian proposals as Jordan would Israel’s proposals. “We have to negotiate not because we agree, but because we disagree,” Peres stressed. “We have to agree to negotiate.”
Appearing on ABC-TV’s “This Week with David Brinkley,” Peres said today that he would prefer that negotiations with Jordan would seek in the first stage not permanent boundaries but some sort of “self-government” for the Palestinians on the West Bank or “a joint venture” with Israel and Jordan.
He did not explain, but ressed “we would like to find a peaceful solution acceptable not only to us but to the Palestinians as well.” Peres also stressed that “we would not like to become a dominant people upon another people,” noting that throughout Jewish history, the Jewish people had never been “masters” over other people.
In his three major appearances before reporters Friday — at the State Department with Secretary of State George Shultz after their talks, at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and at the Embassy press conference — Peres ruled out an international conference which included the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council as Hussein demands, as long as the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China do not have diplomatic relations with Israel.
‘WE DON’T FEEL LONELY WITHOUT THE RUSSIANS’
Although there have been reports that the USSR has been considering restoring diplomatic ties with Israel, Peres said Friday, “Frankly, I do not see that happening in the near future.” He noted during two of his appearances Friday that “we don’t feel lonely without the Russians.”
“The smaller the group will be … the chances for success will be enhanced,” Peres said at the State Department.
However, Peres did call for the five permanent members of the Security Council to endorse direct negotiations between Israel and a Jordanian-Palestinian delegation. He indicated that by being “openly supportive” in this way they would give Hussein the international context he says he needs to enter into negotiations with Israel.
At the same time, Peres said that he did not believe that Hussein has yet ruled out his need for support of the Palestine Liberation Organization for negotiations. But he noted that Hussein said he was “let down” by the PLO when two of its representatives refused to sign a statement renouncing terrorism and agreeing to Israel’s right to exist, which caused the British government to cancel a meeting with the PLO officials.
Peres said that the PLO has “excluded itself” from negotiations by its recent terrorist activities. Shultz sidestepped a question about the PLO Friday although a day earlier, in testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he said the group’s position has become clear by “the violence that has come from the PLO.”
Peres indicated a lessening of Israeli objection to the U.S. meeting with a joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation because he said he was satisfied that the U.S. would not enter into any such talks unless they led to direct negotiations. “There is no substitute for direct negotiations,” he said. “All the rest is window-dressing.”
When an Arab reporter suggested that an Israeli-Jordanian agreement reached under a Peres government might not be kept when Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir becomes Premier next year, Peres said any Israeli agreement is kept by future governments.
He noted that with a single-party government, agreement is easy but implementation is hard, but with a national unity government, such as Israel now has, agreement is hard but implementation easy.
During his two days here, Peres stressed the “warm” reception he has received from the Administration and expressed Israel’s gratitude for the support of the Administration and Congress.
He repeatedly noted that, unlike the situation when he visited Washington a year ago, there wereno major issues dividing Washington and Jerusalem. Israeli and Reagan Administration officials stressed the cooperation of the two countries against international terrorism.
However, Peres did admit to one difference, Israel’s continued opposition to the Reagan Administration’s proposed arms sales to Jordan,which he pointed out is still in a state of war with Israel. Peres did not seem to be as concerned about Jordan receiving arms from the Soviet Union or others since he said they were not as sophisticated as American weaponry.
EFFORT TO REACH OUT TO EGYPT
In his remarks at the White House Thursday, Peres said Israel was ready to negotiate with Jordan in Amman, Jerusalem or Washington. On Friday, he said he would add Cairo.
This seemed to be part of a special effort by both Israel and the U.S. to reach out to Egypt because of its anger over the U.S. interception of an Egyptian plane carrying the hijackers of the Italian liner Achille Lauro. Peres said at the AEI that he hoped negotiations would get started soon again with Egypt over their dispute on Taba.
Earlier at the State Department, Shultz called the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty the “fundamental building block” of the peace process. “We both certainly wish to see our relationships with Egypt remain solid and be a contribution to further developments toward peace in the area,” he said.
While Peres discussed numerous issues during his meetings with Administration officials, Israel’s econnomic situation took up a great deal of time. Both Reagan and Shultz praised Israel’s accomplishments under its austerity program.
Shultz said the U.S. will help Israel on its next step which he said is to encourage economic growth and new industry. He said he has named Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead to lead this effort.
Shultz said Whitehead would work with the joint Israel-U.S. economic planning group, whose next meeting is in December, and with the private group of Americans, headed by Max Fisher, the Detroit Jewish leader, that is seeking to promote investment in Israel.