WASHINGTON (Mar. 26)
President Bush says he may be ready to propose some specific ideas to advance the Middle East peace process when he meets here next week with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
But he stressed in a newspaper interview that he would not threaten Israel with a loss of financial assistance in order to get Jerusalem to agree to U.S. proposals.
Bush made this assertion during an interview with The Washington Times, published Friday, in which it was suggested that, in the “carrot and stick” approach to diplomacy, he could use the “stick” of a financial-aid cutoff to pressure Israel.
“I don’t like to use a stick on friends,” Bush said. “And Israel is a friend, and Israel is an ally. They’re a strategic ally.”
Bush said that relations between the two countries have never been better. “So I don’t talk about using some stick — do it more like Lyndon Johnson — let’s reason together,” he said, quoting a favorite phrase of the former president.
The president also said that when he meets with Israeli Shamir on April 6, he will try to convince him that “something good might come out” of the U.S. dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
He said he will tell Shamir that the talks with the PLO “are good things, and we’ll tell him why I think they’re good things,” Bush said.
The president said he is following the talks closely, although he would not reveal any details of the latest round in Carthage, Tunisia, last Wednesday between Robert Pelletreau Jr., the U.S. ambassador to Tunis, and PLO representatives.
Bush also said he does not yet know what he will tell Shamir beyond that “we have got to move the peace process forward. We may, by then, be ready with some specific ideas.”