NEW YORK (May. 21)
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger expressed “doubt” and “concern” about convening an international peace conference on the Middle East at this time.
“I have grave doubts about a large conference of countries whose stated position is not sympathetic to that of even the most dovish people in Israel,” Kissinger told American Jewish leaders Wednesday night.
Kissinger spoke at a memorial service for Yehuda Hellman, former executive director of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations who died last year. The event took place at the Regency Hotel here.
Kissinger said he is concerned that Israel will find itself pressured and isolated in an international conference and that the Reagan Administration, which has only 18 more months in office, will not have the time to devote to such an undertaking.
REASONS FOR CONCERN
“I am quiet worried about the international conference,” Kissinger said, because “the State Department cannot guarantee what its successor would do.” Noting that Washington has other urgent issues on its agenda, the former Secretary of State warned: “This Administration won’t make a decision on the content of the conference, and no Secretary of State will have the time to devote to this issue.”
“I have difficulty understanding the urgency of an international conference, when the Administration has only 18 months left in office. I have no doubt about Secretary of State George Shultz, but where is he going to find the time” to devote to the conference?
Kissinger said the situation today is unlike 1973, when he, as Secretary of State, convened the Geneva peace conference. Then, he pointed out, Israeli troops were 15 miles away from Damascus and on the west side of the Suez Canal in Egypt. “These conditions are not duplicable today,” he said. Kissinger said that he agrees with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir “on the procedure” and with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres “on the substance” of the issue. But he said that he has “great concern” over the division in Israel on the issue of an international conference.
He said “the division of views in Israel and the enlisting of other countries in the dispute is extremely dangerous.” One of the dangers is that Israel, “whose margin of survival is so narrow,” will not be able to get across this point to U.S. policy makers because of the division among its leaders.
Continuing, the former Secretary of State said that it is “dangerous” to enter negotiations without having “a desirable outcome.” He said that once Israel enters into an international conference, it will find “it is hard to walk away from it.”
Kissinger also said that neither Jordan nor Syria will have a settlement with Israel without getting back territories they lost in the Six-Day War of 1967. “The question is, why do the Arabs want a conference?” Kissinger asked, adding, “Who is going to be fooled by a conference of a day or two?”