JERUSALEM (Jul. 30)
U.S. Vice President George Bush said Wednesday that he was leaving Israel with “some optimism” after talks with Prime Minister Shimon Peres and other members of the government.
At a press conference in Jerusalem, where Bush also attached his initials to an agreement to establish a Voice of America (VOA) radio relay station in the Negev, Bush said he would be conveying “some ideas” to King Hussein of Jordan from Peres.
Bush said he had “really enjoyed” his visit to Israel and appreciated the “friendly warm reception” he received from the people of Israel. Bush left Israel Wednesday afternoon after a nineteen gun-salute ceremony at the Rose Garden near the Knesset.
Speaking at the press conference, the Vice President said he hoped his visit “will contribute” to the relations between Israel and the U.S., and to the Middle East peace process.
Bush expressed his “respect” for Peres’ visit to Morocco to meet with King Hassan. It had been a “courageous move” which had captured the imagination of the Americans, he said.
The Vice President himself will not be visiting Morocco since no invitation from the King has been forthcoming. He said he “quite understood” if the King thought that his (Bush’s) visit would “not make much sense now.”
HAPPY ABOUT THE VOA ACCORD
The Vice President said he was “happy” that the VOA accord was signed while he was in Israel.
The VOA initialling comes amid ongoing controversy in Israel between government ministries, industrial conglomerates, conservationists and Negev settlers over aspects of the project. There will be further discussions with the U.S. before the accord is fully concluded.
Bush also put his name to a tourism accord between the U.S. and Israel. He said he hoped that American tourism to Israel would pick up soon. Israeli officials have expressed the hope that Bush’s high profile activities here will help restore tourism to its pre-1986 level.
SOVIET JEWRY ISSUE
The Vice President said he was “particularly moved” to meet the mothers of refusenik Jews still in Russia and said it would be “wonderful to see an opening up of the flood gates” of Russian aliya.
He said Soviet Jewry was a “very important question. . . on the table at every meeting . . . a lead item on the agenda” whenever Americans and Russians met. He sidestepped a reporter’s suggestion that Washington condition further detente on Soviet Jewish emigration.
Bush again urged, as he did Tuesday, a direct meeting between Hussein and Peres but he said that he knew that the King has “some problems.” The U.S. has to be “sensitive to the problems” the King faces concerning such a meeting, Bush stated. But he reiterated U.S. policy favoring direct negotiation between the parties in the conflict in the Middle East.
He said he did not regret urging Hussein in public (Tuesday) to meet with Peres despite Hussein’s summary rejection of the idea, mentioning his “warm personal relationship” with King Hussein.
Bush said his meeting Tuesday night with West Bank and Gaza leaders had been “really worth while to me.” He had not been distressed by the failure of some invitees to attend. (See separate story.)
RESTORES U.S. POLICY FAVORING REAGAN PLAN
He firmly restated U.S. policy favoring the Reagan plan as the solution for the Palestinian problem and noted that Washington opposes an independent Palestinian state.
“We do favor self-determination, but we don’t like to see self-determination where it’s already predetermined what that means.” For him, said Bush, it meant in the context of the Middle East–the Reagan plan.
The Reagan Mideast plan, which he offered in 1982, called for negotiations involving Israel and Jordan and leading to the eventual establishment a an autonomous Palestinian entity in the West Bank in association with Jordan. The plan also criticized the West Bank settlements. That plan was rejected by Israel and was criticized by many Jewish spokesmen in the U.S. The Reagan Administration continues to view the plan as a viable step in the Mideast peace process.
Asked why the U.S. insists on the PLO’s acceptance of United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, Bush replied: “Well, the Palestinians have in their charter the destruction of the State of Israel and that is not acceptable to the U.S. government.”
PRAISES STRONG U.S.-ISRAEL RELATIONSHIP
Bush praised the “fundamentally strong” U.S. relationship with Israel, and hoped his visit would dispel suspicions in some Israeli quarters, triggered by the Pollard affair and other episodes, that there was a “vendetta” by some American officials against Israel.
Queried about news reports that the U.S. is weighing granting Israel Most-Favored-Nation status in arms acquirements from Washington, Bush confirmed: “There will be a joint study to see what kind of discussions can be undertaken in terms of having Israel have some of the benefits” that accrued to formal U.S. allies. Bush referred to Australia and New Zealand, specifically. “That’s as far as U.S. policy is shaped at this point.”