Peres Assesses Meeting with Hassan

Israeli Premier Shimon Peres told a group of ethnic leaders and journalists from the United States that his meeting with King Hassan of Morocco will enhance the prospects for a more normalized peace between Egypt and Israel, it was reported by Lester Pollack, president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, who with Malcolm Hoenlein, JCRC executive director, led a special mission to Israel. The mission returned to New York this week.

Peres told the mission participants at a 40-minute meeting in the Prime Minister’s office last Friday, that “Until now, Egypt was an orphan in the Middle East. “The meeting with Hassan, he added, could only serve to improve Egypt’s position in the Arab world and will serve to negate widespread skepticism with regard to Israel’s ability to find talking partners among Arab leaders.

Peres, Pollack reported, stressed the importance of sharing Israel’s message with the full spectrum of ethnic groups in the United States. In the discussion that followed, the Prime Minister touched on a number of sensitive issues raised by the American visitors.

ISRAEL’S RELATIONSHIP WITH SOUTH AFRICA

On Israel’s relationship with South Africa, Peres underscored Israel’s long-standing position that it could never accept apartheid and condemned all forms of racism and bigotry. However, Peres explained, that among the reasons Jerusalem does not terminate diplomatic relations with Pretoria is Israel’s interest in protecting the small but significant Jewish community in South Africa.

Peres went on to assert that Israel’s trade with South Africa, largely in coal and diamonds, totals less than one percent annually of Israel’s foreign trade. He also categorically denied that Israel has any military ties with the regime in Pretoria.

OTHER ISSUES DISCUSSED

On other foreign policy issues, the Prime Minister was hopeful that diplomatic relations will be established with the People’s Republic of China. He cited the Chinese for their identification with strong family and educational values and their industriousness.

Peres also noted that Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi has reversed his favorable opinions of the PLO over the past few months in the wake of Jordan’s break with the terrorist group. Peres said that Craxi “is ready to be instrumental” in his proposed economic plan for the Middle East in an effort to avert fiscal disaster in such countries as Egypt and Jordan “before they become like Bangladesh.”

Much closer to home, Peres asserted that Syria’s role in international terror is more subtle than Libyan involvement but no less active. “They are more prudent than they have been in the past,” Peres stated, “but if they can get away with it they will do it.”

Pollack congratulated Peres on his historic visit to Morocco and thanked him for being so generous with his time as well as his willingness to answer the group’s questions.

“The elusive peace which Israel has sought for nearly four decades will only come when the surrounding Arab states recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s right to exist as a nation among nations,” Pollack stated. “Your meeting with King Hassan, we hope, will act as a catalyst for similar ventures with Jordan’s King Hussein and other Arab leaders in the near future,” he added. Among those in attendance at the meeting were: Laura Blackburne, president, Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, N.Y.; Alberta Fuentes, executive director, New York City Commission on Human Rights; Thomas Gulotta, Supervisor, Town of Hempstead, N.Y.; Paul Henry, Health and Hospitals Corporation, N.Y.; Virginia Kee, Chinatown Planning Council, N. Y.; Andreo Mantineo, editor, Il Progresso (Italian-language newspaper), N.Y.

Also Dean Skelos, New York State Senator; Celso Sotomarino, Member of Parliament, Peru; Archie Spigner, Member, New York City Council; Charles Weiss, Jr., Science and Technology Advisor, World Bank, Washington, D.C.; Boleslaw Wierzbranski, editor and publisher, Polish Daily News, N.Y.; Barbara Wierzbranski, International Rescue Committee, N.Y.; Justin Yu, president, Chinese Language Journalists Association; and Michael Miller, assistant executive director, JCRC, N.Y.

While in Israel the group also met with Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir; Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin; Minister-Without-Portfolio Moshe Arens; MK Dan Meridor; Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek and Beit Jala Mayor Farach-El-Arj among other political and civic leaders.

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