WASHINGTON (May. 3)
Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem emerged from a meeting with President Bush on Thursday convinced that Bush has no objections to Jews living in East Jerusalem.
“I have no doubt that the president has no objection to Jews settling all over Jerusalem without any exception,” Kollek told reporters after the 30-minute White House meeting.
Israeli Ambassador Moshe Arad, who accompanied the mayor, said Bush had not actually made a statement to this effect.
But Kollek seemed to base his confidence on his belief that Bush had endorsed a letter Secretary of State James Baker sent to Rep. Mel Levine (D-Calif.) at the end of March.
“Clearly, Jews and others can live where they want, East or West, and the city must remain undivided,” the Baker letter said.
The letter followed the uproar in Israel over a statement by Bush opposing the settlement of Jews in East Jerusalem as well as the West Bank. Some blame Bush’s statement for the collapse of Israel’s coalition government.
But Kollek said he did not believe Bush was responsible.
The mayor said he sought to assure Bush that “we had not changed the frontiers of Jeru- salem since 67 by a single inch.”
He told the president that despite the increase in Jewish and Arab populations in Jerusalem, the ratio of Arabs and Jews would continue to be the same. There is room for some 25,000 additional homes for Jews and an equal amount for Arabs, he said.
Kollek said Jerusalem represents 11 to 12 percent of Israel’s population and that he hopes to get a similar percentage of Soviet, Ethiopian and other immigrants. He stressed that people do not get any special benefits for moving to Jerusalem, as they do in the West Bank.
“I think he (Bush) and the people around him were satisfied with these replies,” Kollek said.
But he said the United States is still unhappy about the assistance the Israeli government provided to a group of Orthodox Jews who leased a building in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter, establishing the first Jewish presence there.
Kollek referred to it as an “unfortunate incident,” but said freedom of worship and expression in Jerusalem has not been adversely affected.
Kollek repeatedly warded off any questions about Israeli government policy, stressing he met with the president as Jerusalem’s mayor, not as a spokesman for the caretaker government of acting Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
“I wish the Shamir government would leave me alone,” he quipped.