WASHINGTON (May. 22)
Secretary of State James Baker urged Israelis on Monday to abandon the “unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel,” while calling on the Palestinians to end their hopes of destroying the Jewish state.
It is “high time for serious political dialogue between Israeli officials and Palestinians in the territories,” Baker said in a hard-hitting speech to the 30th annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The speech was his first major policy address to an American Jewish group since becoming secretary of state.
“Both sides must build political constituencies for peace,” Baker said. “Each idea, proposal or detail, should be developed as a deal-maker, not a deal-breaker.”
Baker reiterated the Bush administration position that now is not the time to seek a comprehensive settlement. Instead, he advocated working for a transitional stage of Palestinian self-rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
To achieve this, the United States believes Israel’s plan for elections in the territories “is an important and positive start down the road toward constructing workable negotiations,” Baker said.
He said that a workable process for the elections still needs to be found. While not proposing any details, he said the elections should be “free of interference from any quarter,” and participation in them “should be as open as possible.”
He also said the elections should allow open access to the media and international observers.
‘STOP SETTLEMENT ACTIVITY’
But the secretary cautioned that even reaching a first step in negotiations will be difficult. “For many Israelis, it will not be easy to enter a negotiating process whose successful outcome will, in all probability, involve territorial withdrawal and the emergence of a new political reality,” he said.
But he said that “now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel. Israeli interests in the West Bank and Gaza — security and otherwise — can be accommodated in a settlement” based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, he said.
“Forswear annexation. Stop settlement activity. Allow schools to reopen. Reach out to the Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights,” Baker implored.
For Palestinians, negotiations “will mean an end to the illusion of control over all of Palestine, and it will mean full recognition of Israel as a neighbor and partner in trade and human contact,” Baker said.
He urged Palestinians to “speak with one voice for peace. Renounce the policy of phases in all languages, not just those addressed to the West.
“Practice constructive diplomacy, not attempts to distort international organizations, such as the World Health Organization,” he said.
The secretary also called on Palestinians to amend their covenant calling for the destruction of Israel and move toward “a dialogue of polities and diplomacy.
“Violence will not work,” he said. “Reach out to Israelis and convince them of your peaceful intentions. You have the most to gain from doing so, and no one else can or will do it for you. And no one is going to ‘deliver’ Israel for you.”
URGES END OF ARAB BOYCOTT
Baker also had prescriptions for the Arab states and the Soviet Union. “Let the Arab world take concrete steps toward accommodation with Israel — not in place of the peace process, but as a catalyst for it,” he said.
“End the economic boycott. Stop the challenge to Israel’s standing in international organizations. Repudiate the odious lie that Zionism is racism,” he advised.
Baker noted that during his recent visit to Moscow, the Soviets agreed that the Israeli plan for elections was worthy of study.
But he said that if the Soviets want to play a constructive role in the Middle East, they must “restore diplomatic ties with Israel” and “help promote a serious peace process, not just empty slogans.”
He also urged the Soviets “to behave responsibly when it comes to arms and stop the supply of sophisticated weapons to countries like Libya.”
Baker stressed that a “a key condition for progress” in the Middle East is “a productive U.S.-Israeli partnership. And I believe the best way to be productive is through consultation, rather than confrontation.”
Baker reiterated the U.S. position that a Middle East settlement can only be reached through direct negotiations. “In advance of direct negotiations, the United States and no other party, inside or outside, can or will dictate an outcome,” he said.
“That is why the United States does not support annexation or permanent Israeli control of the West Bank and Gaza, nor do we support the creation of an independent Palestinian state.”
Baker was warmly received and was applauded several times by some 2,000 delegates and 400 college students attending the conference.
But some drew a distinction between Baker’s even-handed approach and the more pro-Israel stance of his predecessor. As one delegate put it, “He’s no George Shultz.”