Peres Denies Promising Hussein He’d Call Elections over Peace

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres denied Wednesday that he promised Jordan he would dissolve Israel’s national unity government if the coalition failed to endorse Israeli participation in an international peace conference.

Peres said reports of King Hussein’s disappointment with the alleged broken promise were “fishy.” The reports were relayed by an unidentified American academic who met last week with Jordanian officials.

The foreign minister also told a radio audience that media descriptions of a shouting match Wednesday between Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and him were “exaggerated.” He continued, however, to cast Shamir in the role of being an obstacle to peace.

The report of Peres’ alleged promise to Hussein came from an American academic who met with Jordan’s Prince Hassan and Prime Minister Zaid al-Rifai.

According to an account of the meetings in Haaretz, Hussein claimed that Peres personally pledged to the king on a number of occasions that if the coalition government did not agree to an international conference, Peres would leave the government and force early elections.

Hussein was said to list the broken promise as one of the factors that led him to sever administrative ties with the West Bank.

Peres said Wednesday that he doubted the Jordanian monarch actually made the remarks. “It’s hard for me to believe that King Hussein said anything like that,” he said, noting that the king has denied ever meeting with the Israeli foreign minister. “Therefore, this whole story seems a bit fishy,” Peres said.

PEACE SERVES ISRAEL’S INTEREST

But the foreign minister was slower to deny a report that Hussein had praised him as one of the Middle East’s more successful leaders.

“He can reach such a conclusion also without meeting me, thus that’s harder for me to deny,” said Peres.

Questioned on the radio about his confrontation Wednesday with Shamir, Peres challenged the prime minister’s assertion that a peace settlement now would serve the Arab side.

“What’s that supposed to mean? That someone who wants peace with Egypt serves Egypt?

“I believe that we serve peace, not Egypt,” said Peres. “And according to every existing theory, peace means avoidance of war, and that certainly serves Israel’s interest and also demands Israeli initiative.”

NEXT STORY