WASHINGTON (Dec. 17)
Israel’s new ambassador to the United States, Zalman Shoval, told President Bush on Monday that, like the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Israel also has a dream: one of peace with its Arab neighbors.
“We, too, have a dream that Arab and Jew, and all other peoples of the Middle East, will one day live in peace and harmony,” Shoval said in presenting his credentials to Bush at the White House.
“We dream of a peace which will enable all of us to pool our human and physical resources to the mutual benefit of all inhabitants of the region.”
Shoval urged Bush to “continue to support the government of Israel in its quest for peace with all its neighbors.” He blamed the lack of progress on “Palestinian intransigence and the negative role” of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
At the same time, Shoval urged continued assistance from the United States to allow Israel to maintain its qualitative military edge, in view of the increasing weapons of mass destruction in the hands of Iraq and other Arab states.
But the ambassador stressed that Israel “will assume the full burden of its defense without requesting the aid of a single (U.S.) soldier to fight on its behalf.”
Shoval also said that while Israel and the United States have to do some “fence-mending” because of occasional differences, “fundamentally, we are always on the same side of the fence.”
Bush replied that he wants to work closely with the Israeli government to deepen and strengthen the relationship between the two countries. “Our relationship is firm and open, and our commitment to cooperation is unshakable,” he said.
While attention is focused on Saddam Hussein’s aggression in the Persian Gulf, “we are acutely aware of the serious danger posed to Israel,” the president said.
Bush told Shoval the United States remains committed to maintaining Israel’s qualitative edge. “I assure you that we consistently take Israel’s security requirements into account when considering any transfer of American military equipment into the region,” he said.
Bush also said that while Iraq will not be allowed to link its aggression to the Arab-Israeli conflict, progress needs to be made in this area.
“We cannot allow Iraq’s adventurism to distract us from our longstanding efforts to achieve peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors and between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples,” Bush said.