Bush Asks Shamir to Develop Ideas to Advance Peace Process

President Bush has sent a private letter to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir asking for Shamir’s views on how the peace process should proceed.

Bush also gave some of his own “suggestions,” White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said Tuesday.

Fitzwater said the letter was sent last week to congratulate Shamir for successfully putting together a new government. William Brown, the U.S. ambassador to Israel, delivered the letter to the prime minister last Friday.

The letter appeared to be a restatement of U.S. policy toward Israel, including support for the security of the Jewish state and the continued emigration of Soviet Jewry.

The president “looked forward to working with Mr. Shamir on behalf of the freedom of Soviet Jews,” Fitzwater said.

But Bush also reiterated his opposition to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip which the president considers an “obstacle to peace,” the spokesman added.

The bulk of the lengthy letter, however, was aimed at getting the peace process moving again.

Fitzwater said Bush “reiterated his strong support for the Israeli government’s May 14, 1989 initiative as the most realistic way forward in the peace process.”

An Israeli diplomat said Bush asked Shamir to resume the process where it left off three months ago, with the United States waiting for Israel to decide whether to accept Secretary of State James Baker’s proposal for Israeli-Palestinian talks in Cairo.

Bush also asked if the new Israeli government had other ideas on how to proceed in the effort to bring about elections leading to negotiations for Palestinian autonomy in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the diplomat said.

Republican congressional leaders who met with Bush on Tuesday reported the president said there were “reasons to hope for success.”

Fitzwater said the only explanation he could offer for this comment was that with the Israeli government now in place, “at least we have an entity to work with.”

The letter was revealed by Bush in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, published Tuesday.

In the interview, the president seemed to reiterate Baker’s warning before a congressional committee last week that the United States might drop its efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East unless Israel and the Palestinians showed a greater desire to move forward.

“We aren’t going to pick up our marbles and go home,” Bush said. But he also said that if Israel and the Palestinians do not show they want to go on, “there may be a hiatus” in U.S. involvement.

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