WASHINGTON (May. 18)
Israel is receiving from the United States the “large measure” of understanding and support it needs for its peace initiative to succeed, Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens said Thursday.
“I think what is needed now is wholehearted and unreserved American support for this peace initiative,” Arens told reporters at the State Department after a 30-minute meeting with Secretary of State James Baker.
The foreign minister said full U.S. backing is the only way to win support from other countries and a positive reaction from the Arab countries.
Arens refused to go into any specifics of his meeting. But he said that he was not “pushed at all” by Baker on the details of the plan, which would have Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip elect representatives to negotiate a five-year autonomy arrangement with Israel.
The Bush administration reportedly has been asking Israel whether Arabs in East Jerusalem would be allowed to take part in the elections and whether Israel would accept international supervision of them.
Premier Yitzhak Shamir has ruled out both proposals.
“I don’t think we can be sidetracked at this time by this or that detail,” Arens said.
He said the important thing to focus on is the peace initiative, which he stressed is not just elections, but a four-part proposal.
MEETS WITH U.S. OFFICIALS
It also includes the reaffirmation by the United States, Israel and Egypt of the Camp David accords, peace negotiations with other Arab countries and a multinational effort to solve the problems of Palestinians in refugee camps.
“There is only one peace initiative around at this time and that’s Israel’s peace initiative,” Arens said. “It’s the only game in town.”
Emerging from a meeting earlier in the day with National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft, Arens expressed confidence that the peace plan would win full backing from the Bush administration.
“I think there’s a fair chance that President (Hosni) Mubarak of Egypt will also be interested,” he told reporters.
Arens also met Thursday with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and Health and Human Services Secretary Jack Kemp. He was scheduled to meet with Vice President Dan Quayle on Friday.
Reporters were told by the State Department that Arens would not be leaving from the diplomatic entrance, the usual point of arrival and departure for visiting foreign dignitaries, because a group supporting the Palestine Liberation Organization was demonstrating across the street.
But just before Arens was scheduled to depart, his car and the security cars accompanying it started driving away.
The PLO supporters thought Arens had left, and so they departed. The cars then returned and Arens came out and spoke with reporters.