NEW YORK (Mar. 21)
North American Jewish leaders politely challenged Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir on Monday to clarify his position on the peace process, to outline his future plans and to explain how differences within Israel’s divided unity government would be resolved.
The Jewish leaders pressed the Israeli premier repeatedly on these subjects during a closed telecast of the Jewish Satellite Network operated by the Council of Jewish Federations.
Appearing on a call-in program broadcast from New York to 27 Jewish federations in the United States and Canada, Shamir reiterated his reasons for rejecting U.S. Secretary of Shultz’s proposal for an international Mideast peace conference in favor of his own call for direct negotiations between Israel and Arab belligerents.
He also repeated his criticism of American Jewish leaders who have spoken out against his government’s policies, saying it is “inconceivable some personalities will ask their government to do anything or to make steps against the government of Israel.”
Callers from 15 cities were able to reach Shamir during the 45-minute program, and all asked questions relating to the peace process and the nearly 4-month-old unrest in the administered territories.
Shamir continued to stand by his interpretation of the Camp David accords, fashioned by Israel, Egypt and the United States nine years ago, as his reason for rejecting the Shultz proposals.
‘NEGOTIATE WITHOUT PRECONDITIONS’
Asked by a caller from the United Jewish Federation of MetroWest, N.J., whether his commitment to the proposals would include trading land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip for peace, Shamir said “we will negotiate without any preconditions. Any party is entitled to bring any proposal to the table, and we will consider it and discuss it.”
But in response to a suggestion from a caller in Cleveland that an international conference would serve as a “cover” for Jordan’s King Hussein, thereby allowing him to begin face-to-face negotiations with Israel, Shamir replied, “The international conference is the opposite of direct negotiations.”
He said the international conference would be “a tool of pressure against Israel.”
Shamir was then asked what developments, either within the Arab world or presented unilaterally by Israel, would compel Hussein to change his mind about holding direct negotiations.
‘LET THEM PROVE’ THEY WANT PEACE
“If they are for peace, let them prove it by coming to the table for direct negotiations,” the premier said. “We cannot compel anybody to come to the table.”
Asked by a Philadelphia caller about his proposed alternatives to the Shultz plan, Shamir was reluctant to go beyond his comments Sunday on the CBS television program “Face the Nation” in which he hinted that he had further plans for advancing the peace process.
“I have my ideas. . . but it is very vital and useful not to reveal now this position I have in mind,” said Shamir. He said he had not even presented the position to Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.
Asked how to resolve differences on the peace process between his party and Labor, Shamir said national unity would be achieved during upcoming elections in Israel. Whether they are to be held in November or earlier, he said, “will not make any big difference.”
Shamir opened his remarks by saluting Canada’s Jewish community “for their courageous stand in these days,” possibly a reference to Jewish outrage there at remarks critical of Israel made two weeks ago by External Affairs Minister Joe Clark.