JERUSALEM (Aug. 10)
Premier Shimon Peres and Deputy Premier Yitzhak Shamir told the Cabinet Sunday that the Israeli delegates to the Helsinki talks with the Soviet Union would place at the top of the agenda the demand that Soviet Jews who wish to emigrate should be allowed to do so.
Preparations for the Helsinki talks have been preoccupying Israeli leaders since the announcement was made a week ago.
In a statement last week, Peres stated: “We’re not getting overly excited. But this is another kind of step in the direction of the breakup of the reservations about contacts with Israel, in the direction of development, of stability, and I certainly appreciate this.
“We want cultural ties, economic ties, commercial ties. The Russians also want to participate in an international conference which will open if negotiations between us and the Arabs get under way.”
“We do not oppose their (the Soviets’) participation in the opening, on the condition that they establish full diplomatic relations with us, and with the hope that they will stop taking one-sided stands on the Middle East.”
OPPOSES AN INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON THE MIDEAST
“An international conference that will try to determine the future of our people and of the region cannot bring peace,” Shamir told Jewish students here last Friday, a day after the leaders of Egypt and Jordan issued a joint statement in Alexandria favoring an international conference.
Shamir stressed that he opposed an international conference whether or not it was attended by the USSR. “Israel cannot agree to any attempt to impose solutions from the outside on the parties to the conflict,” he said. “The solutions must come from within the region, and by direct negotiations.
“However,” Shamir added, “a superpower such as the Soviet Union can influence developments in the Mideast by acting in a responsible manner, by publicly supporting the peace process and by refraining from providing support to aggressive regimes and terrorist organizations.
“We will conduct our contacts with the Soviet representatives with an open mind in the hope that the real improvement in relations will come about. A real improvement will come about only if the Soviet government will change its attitude toward the Jewish people in the Soviet Union and will change its negative attitude toward the State of Israel in the Mideast.”
But Shamir appeared to have softened his line toward the Soviet Union in an Israel Radio interview Saturday. In his latest statement, he said the Helsinki talks were a hesitant, modest step toward improved relations between the two countries. At this point, Shamir said, the Soviets want to discuss “some important issues, such as their property here, but we will of course raise the issue which is most important to us — Soviet Jewry.”
Shamir described the absence of diplomatic relations between Israel and the USSR as abnormal. He said that Israel, for its part, wants a resumption of relations because of the vital role the Soviet Union plays in the Mideast and because of the intolerable situation in which the two million Soviet Jews live. “Progress in these talks must therefore be shown simultaneously in both these aspects of the problem,” Shamir said.
While the Cabinet was in session Sunday discussing the upcoming talks, a group of former aliya activists, among them Natan (Anatoly) Shcharansky, demonstrated outside the Prime Minister’s office. They demanded that Israel make the emigration of Soviet Jews a condition for any talks with the USSR. The demonstrators argued against the euphoria which has characterized many Israelis in the wake of the reports of the upcoming talks.