Shamir Hopeful U.S. Suspension of PLO Talks Leads to Cooperation

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir said Thursday that he hoped President’s Bush’s decision to suspend the U.S. dialogue with the Palestine Liberation Organization would help Israel “achieve cooperation” with Washington in the pursuit of peace.

“We can only welcome this U.S. decision,” Shamir told Israel Radio on Thursday morning, a day after Bush announced a suspension of the 18-month talks.

Shamir recalled that the Israeli peace initiative of May 1989 had explicitly stated that the PLO cannot be a partner to the peace process.

“We said if the PLO is in, then Israel is out,” he said.

He noted that the U.S. decision to “suspend” rather than terminate the dialogue “leads to doubts” about whether the administration had in fact concluded that the PLO was an inveterate and immutable terror organization.

“But we think that reality is stronger than any tactical considerations,” Shamir said. “The PLO can play tactics, but the U.S. government cannot afford to do so. It has to maintain its credibility in the eyes of its own citizens and of the world.”

Expressing hope that the suspension would not be temporary, he said, “We will mark the beginning of a new attitude and new period by the U.S. to this region.”

Shamir’s gratification was echoed not only by members of his own Likud party and the parties of the coalition, but also by the leaders of the opposition Labor Party.

“A right decision at the right time,” Labor leader Shimon Peres said in a telephone interview from New York, where he was speaking to American Jewish groups.

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