WASHINGTON (Jan. 17)
Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin said Wednesday that his country needs to “take the risks that are needed for the peace process.”
Rabin spoke briefly with reporters outside the White House, after meeting for 30 minutes each with Vice President Dan Quayle and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser.
President Bush did not take part in the meetings, said Ruth Yaron, the Israeli Embassy spokeswoman.
Rabin, who is scheduled to meet Thursday morning with Secretary of State James Baker, said that at the White House, “I gave my own estimation of the possibilities on the peace process and, at the same time, the need of Israel to be strong, to take the risks that are needed for the peace process.”
In addition, Rabin and the administration officials “discussed the problems in the Middle East, bearing in mind that the governments in the Soviet bloc and Eastern Europe” have new leaders, which have “implications for our region.”
Asked if he thinks the administration is sending any subtle signal for Israel to be more flexible on the peace process, Rabin said, “I believe that we have the kind of relationship in which we can discuss openly and freely most of the issues, and whenever there are differences, we know on what we are differing to bridge over our differences.”
NO MENTION OF DOLE PROPOSAL
Rabin was asked about a proposal by Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.) to provide more foreign aid to emerging democracies in Eastern Europe by making a 5 percent cut in the U.S. foreign aid grants given to the largest recipients, including Israel.
The defense minister said the only mention of it he has heard while in the United States was from The New York Times, which printed Dole’s proposal on its op-ed page Tuesday.
“I’ve heard about certain difficulties of the United States, but I have not seen any sign that (it will) affect the coming fiscal year support of Israel,” he added.
Rabin also told reporters that he has no plans to meet with Egyptian Foreign Minister Esmat Abdel Meguid, who met with Baker twice on Tuesday.
State Department spokeswoman Margaret Tutwiler said that a second unscheduled meeting between Baker and Meguid was held at the Egyptian minister’s hotel Tuesday night, so they could continue their discussion of the Middle East situation.
Meguid is in Washington primarily to discuss Egypt’s economic problems with the International Monetary Fund. His first meetings on the IMF lasted so long that there was no time to discuss the peace process, Tutwiler said.
She said Meguid and Baker will meet again Friday.
Tutwiler said that Baker and Meguid did not discuss the scheduling of a proposed meeting in Washington that would include the two of them, along with Israeli Foreign Minister Moshe Arens.
She said Baker telephoned Arens on Tuesday morning, but refused to confirm a report in Israel that the meeting, originally expected this month, would be held in late February.
“There is no lack of desire on any of the three foreign ministers for such a meeting to take place,” Tutwiler said. “But all three agree that there is substance to be worked out” before such a meeting can be held.
Rabin, who also met Wednesday with Dennis Ross, director of the State Department’s policy planning staff, was scheduled to meet late Wednesday afternoon with Defense Secretary Dick Cheney and separately with the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force.