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A Downbeat Shimon Peres Warns of the Costs of Stalling Peace

Israeli Labor Party leader Shimon Peres seemed like a tired prizefighter as he pressed for the continued life of the Middle East peace process Monday in a speech to American Jewish leaders.

Peres warned that if the peace process ends, there will be “an escalation of threats, terror, violence and preparations for war.”

Peres’ Labor Party colleague, Yitzhak Rabin, made similar predictions while he was in the United States last week.

Speaking to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Peres warned that Israel must refrain from damaging relations with the United States, European nations and the Soviet Union.

The relationship with the United States and the Soviets, he said, is particularly important in view of the continuing emigration of Soviet Jews.

“As long as there is the slightest danger that the gates may be closed, we must use the good offices of the U.S. to impress upon the Russians that they must stay open,” he said.

Without directly attacking the new coalition’s position on the issue of the settlement of Soviet Jews in the administered territories, Peres pointed out that “the West Bank, all told, is only 3,000 square kilometers” (1,200 square miles), while “one-half of Israel, the Negev, is open and inviting.”

He was circumspect when asked whether the United States should cut off its dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“The United States will do right if it will press on certain Palestinian elements to stop violence,” Peres said, adding, “All measures should be taken to show to the Palestinians and the PLO that we will not compromise on terrorism.”

But he did not elaborate on what he thought those measures should be. “Keep the pressure on, and if they won’t denounce terrorism, draw the necessary conclusions,” Peres said.

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