WASHINGTON (Nov. 20)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir has promised a continuing dialogue with black and other members of Congress concerned about Israel’s dealings with South Africa.
“I promised them that I will consult about these problems with some leaders of African black countries with whom I have some friendly relations,” Shamir said Sunday in an appearance on the CBS-TV program “Face the Nation.”
“And I will come back to them, and we will discuss this together,” he said.
Shamir said he had “a very deep discussion” on Israel’s relations with South Africa with a group of black and Jewish members of Congress last Thursday.
The closed-door meeting was held at the request of the lawmakers, who wanted Shamir to know not just their concern about recent media reports of Israeli cooperation with South Africa on missile technology, but also their anger, according to a source who was present.
Shamir gave the lawmakers the same answer he gave President Bush, when Bush reportedly asked about the South African connection during their hour-long meeting Nov. 15 at the White House. In response to the lawmakers’ query, Shamir reiterated Israel’s policy of opposition to apartheid, the source said.
Israel has abided by a March 1987 Cabinet decision that the government would no longer cooperate on military projects with South Africa, but would not abrogate existing agreements, Shamir said.
He added these agreements are being phased out and will expire in another year or two.
‘VERY, VERY EAGER TO GET PEACE’
In the CBS interview, Shamir vigorously rejected charges that he wants to torpedo his own peace initiative, including the proposal for elections in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“It is nonsense to think that I am against my own peace plan,” he told “Face the Nation.”
“It is my plan. I am committed to every word of this plan. I will do my utmost to implement this plan,” he said, “because I am sure, I am convinced that this is the only realistic plan of peace — as you say, the only game in town.”
Shamir added that Jews and other friends of Israel “know that I am tough, maybe, in protecting our interests. But at the same time, I am very, very eager to get peace.”
Shamir repeated his assertion that his meetings with Bush and Secretary of State James Baker were not tense, despite some concerns raised by the president. These meetings were the frank discussions expected between friends, he maintained.
“He (Bush) asked, I tried to answer,” Shamir said. “I think in the end we have a full understanding of all of the issues we are going to handle together.”
Shamir said that the United States and Israel do differ about the permanent solution of the Arab-Israeli conflict, which the Bush administration believes requires “land for peace.”
“We have to resolve the conflict, but the territories are part of our heritage,” Shamir said.
In this context, the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza are “not any contradiction” to Israel’s proposal that the Palestinians in the territories elect representatives to negotiate with Israel for autonomy.
Shamir said Bush raise the question of settlements, particulary reports that the Israeli Cabinet had approved a new one near Dugit, in the Gaza Strip, just before Shamir came to Washington.
“I explained to the president that it was not a new settlement,” but change in location for a settlement agreed to by the government months ago, Shamir said.