JERUSALEM (Oct. 18)
Secretary of State George Shultz is winding up his visit to Israel in a mood more contemplative than confident of a breakthrough toward Middle East peace in the near future.
While he conceded at a news conference here Sunday that he could point to no “big sign of progress” following a series of talks with Israeli leaders on ways to advance the peace process, he expressed hope that “we gradually (will) get somewhere” and observed that “there has been considerable progress” in the past.
The main issue confronting Shultz is Premier Yitzhak Shamir’s apparently unbending opposition to an international conference for Middle East peace. His carefully formulated news conference remarks seemed to underscore his oft-repeated insistence that he would not press the Premier on this matter.
But some observers detected a note of annoyance with the Israeli leader’s adamancy. Together with Israel, he told reporters, he would try “to find some avenues” with which Shamir could be “more comfortable than he obviously is with the international conference.”
‘OBLIGATION TO OFFER SOMETHING DIFFERENT’
His words were more pointed when he spoke at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot and at Tel Aviv University after receiving honorary doctorates from both institutions earlier Sunday. “Those who are reluctant to explore new ideas, or even revisit old ones, have an obligation-to offer something different as an alternative to the status quo,” Shultz said.
The Secretary arrived in Israel Friday afternoon and was greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by Foreign Minister Shimon Peres. Later he met for his first working session with Shamir and later with Peres.
On Saturday, he flew to Saudi Arabia, returning to Jerusalem by evening for further talks with Shamir and Peres. Shultz had a final found with Shamir scheduled for Sunday night. He was to fly to Egypt Monday morning. According to American sources, Shultz focussed his attention on the Persian Gulf situation during his brief stay in Saudi Arabia.
Shultz is visiting the region before going to Moscow for nuclear arms limitation talks and some observers attached significance to his timetable. But Shultz himself asked Israelis to view his visit in the context of the “continuing discussions going on all the time.” He referred to Shamir’s forthcoming visit to the United States and to the state visit by President Chaim Herzog next month.
Shultz said his talks here were “thorough, intense … constructive and beneficial.” He noted that “We all believe that the way to get to peace is through direct negotiations. Now, how do you bring that about?” he asked. “We continue to scratch our heads about that….”
Shultz’s visit to Israel, his first since 1985, has been overshadowed by other events. Tension is escalating in the Persian Gulf following damage inflicted on an American reflagged Kuwaiti tanker, presumably by Iranian-fired Silkworm missiles Friday.
Almost lost in the news was Shultz’s announcement of a $10,000 personal donation, the first toward a $1 million scholarship fund to be established in his name by Tel Aviv University for doctoral students in political science, economics and business management.