NEW YORK (Jun. 18)
Israeli Foreign Minister David Levy said here Monday night that Israel has a firm understanding with the United States that the ongoing peace process cannot lead to a Palestinian state and that the Palestine Liberation Organization is unfit to be a negotiating partner.
Levy, who addressed a dinner of the World Sephardi Federation at the Pierre Hotel, also warned Syria not to attempt any military “adventure” against Israel.
“If they try-such an adventure they’ll be hit like they never were before and they won’t forget it,” Levy told a cheering black-tie audience.
He said he hoped that the Syrian government, “which is buying missiles with the billions it got for joining the anti-Saddam (Hussein) coalition, understands that peace is preferable to war.”
The Moroccan-born Israeli minister spoke highly of his relationship with U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, with whom he last met in Washington on June 13.
He praised Baker for recognizing the fact “that the peace process cannot lead to a Palestinian state, which would be the beginning of the end for Israel” and for recognizing, too, “that the PLO, which deals in terror and which is still guided by the PLO covenant calling for the destruction of Israel, is not a fit partner for negotiations toward peace.”
Levy made the same points at a meeting with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations here earlier Monday.
He emphasized to them that “while some differences remain between the Americans and us, we have reached agreement on many more items than we differ on.”
He said the Bush administration promised Israel there would be “no surprises” and that any further moves to bring Israel and the Arab states to the peace table would be made in full consultation with Jerusalem.
‘WHERE ARE THE BRIDE AND GROOM?’
Levy told his audience that he and Baker, “from our very first meeting, developed a relationship of trust. And that is preferable to mere diplomacy.”
He also stressed the concessions Israel has made to advance peace.
“In recent weeks, we have been asked to let the United States be a sponsor of Arab-Israel peace talks, We agreed,” Levy said.
“Then we were asked to let the Soviets be a sponsor. We agreed.
“Then the Europeans wanted to be a sponsor. We agreed.
“Now there are many sponsors, but where are the bride and groom?” the foreign minister asked.
“What is the Syrian reply to the American proposal? We say, ‘Let us talk peace face to face.’ But thus far there has been only silence from the Syrians.”
Levy told the Presidents Conference that Baker shares Israel’s position that the only purpose to be served by a peace conference would be to bring Israelis and Arabs together for face-to-face talks.
“He accepts our position that there shall be no preconditions attached to the peace talks,” Levy said.
The Arab demand that Israel withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza “cannot be a pre-condition but is rather an issue for negotiation,” Levy explained.