WASHINGTON (Apr. 21)
President Reagan marked the 40th anniversary of Israel’s independence Thursday by repeating his call on all leaders in the Middle East to accept the U.S. initiative for negotiations between Israel and her Arab neighbors.
“The president reiterates his appeals to the leaders in the region not to miss this opportunity to move ahead and get to productive peace negotiations,” White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said in a written statement.
Fitzwater’s statement was issued after Reagan signed a Memorandum of Agreement with Israel that “formalizes and perpetuates” the existing strategic cooperation between Israel and the United States.
In Jerusalem, Israeli Premier Yitzhak Shamir also signed the agreement Thursday, stressing that it will be the legacy of the Reagan administration to its successors and will ensure continued cooperation in all fields.
Shamir had sought the memorandum during his visit to Washington last month. He repeatedly stressed that while Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz are “great friends of Israel,” Israel wanted to be sure that the close cooperation developed during the Reagan administration would continue with its successors.
The memorandum “reiterates for the public record our longstanding relationship of strategic cooperation with Israel,” the White House statement said. “Strategic cooperation can only succeed when there are shared interests, including the commitment to building peace and stability in the region.”
‘STRONG ISRAEL IS NECESSARY’
The White House stressed that the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and to peace “will never flag. The president knows that a strong Israel is necessary if peace is to be possible. He also knows that Israel can never be truly secure without peace.”
To that end, Reagan has asked Shultz “to continue his peacemaking efforts, seeking a comprehensive settlement which will assure Israel’s security and provide for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people,” the White House said.
“The president remains convinced that our peace initiative is balanced and offers the only realistic basis on which to make progress.”
The State Department reiterated the White House remarks with Phyllis Oakley, a department spokeswoman, stressing that Shultz “will pursue this initiative both with Israel and her Arab neighbors.” Shultz, who arrived in Moscow on Thursday, is expected to discuss his peace initiative with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze.
While the Israeli government has not yet given a formal reply to Shultz’s proposals, the issue has deeply divided the national unity government, with Labor supporting it and Likud opposed. Shamir made clear his opposition during his visit to Washington.
Oakley said the memorandum “doesn’t impose on either party new obligations or commitments.” She said it does ensure the continuation of the three U.S.-Israeli groups that meet periodically to discuss military-political issues, economic development and security assistance.
The memorandum also ensures the continuation of regular meetings between the U.S. undersecretary of state for political affairs and the director-general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry “to review a wide range of international issues of mutual interest,” Oakley said.
The agreement “recognizes that Israel . . . is considered a major non-NATO ally for purposes of research and development,” she said.