NEW YORK (Dec. 13)
Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, looking relaxed and pleased at the end of his weeklong visit to the United States, told Jewish leaders Friday he was leaving confident of the strong ties between Israel and the United States despite ongoing problems in the U.N. Security Council and the Persian Gulf.
Shamir also assured the estimated 400 people who gathered at the headquarters of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York that “the areas of agreement are overwhelmingly greater than the points of disagreement” between the two leaders.
His prepared speech took just over 10 minutes to deliver, and it was concerned primarily with the Gulf crisis and his meeting Wednesday with Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in Washington, both areas in which Shamir said he felt secure.
“Shevardnadze told me that on the matter of normal relations between our two states, the matter will be carried out in due course and that there is no real obstacle to that fulfillment,” Shamir said. The Soviet Union broke relations with Israel after the 1967 war.
In response to questions about the planned vote in the Security Council next week over a resolution that could include a call for a Middle East peace conference, Shamir stated clearly his opposition toward such a conference.
NOT INTERESTED IN IMPOSED DECISIONS
“Everybody knows our strong position that such a conference wouldn’t lead to peace in the area,” said Shamir, adding that “it would be in international body that would more or less be like the United Nations or the Security Council. We are not interested in decisions by an international body that would be imposed upon us.”
When asked about statements he had made in Israel concerning the need for a “greater Israel,” implying annexation of the administered territories, Shamir said this did not preclude negotiations over the status of the territories.
“We are always ready to negotiate with our neighbors and the Palestinian population about the status of the territories of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza,” he said.
Shamir faced the most difficulty over questions raised about his Likud party’s accommodations with the religious Agudat Yisrael party in order to maintain a majority in the Knesset. Such accommodations included promises of bans on pork, “lewd” advertising and most remaining Shabbat bus runs.
At the same time, he seemed to hedge when asked what was being done about plans for electoral reform, plans which would raise the minimum percentage required to enter the Knesset from 1 percent to upward of 5 percent.
Supporters of electoral reform say such a change would reduce the dependency of major parties on tiny, factional groups such as Agudat Yisrael. But at the same time, it could mean the end of Likud’s reign.