JERUSALEM (Sep. 26)
Foreign Minister Shimon Peres is determined to use the accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization as a catalyst to dissolving the state of war between Israel and the Arab countries with which it does not have a direct dispute.
But the initial reaction from Arab states to this proposal and the foreign minister’s call for ending the economic boycott against Israel has been negative.
Syria has taken the line that the Arab political and economic boycotts cannot be eased until Israel withdraws completely from all Arab lands, including Jerusalem.
This position has been echoed by Persian Gulf officials and newspapers, as well as by the Jordanian press.
And PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat reportedly has refused to say that the Arab economic boycott against Israel should be lifted.
In a weekend interview with Israel Television, Peres said, “I think we need to make a supreme effort to at least end the state of war, and of course get rid of the boycott. The end of the boycott should be an outgrowth of the end of the state of war.”
The foreign minister made the comments hours before he left for New York, where he was due to give a speech Tuesday before the U.N. General Assembly and meet with no fewer than 40 other foreign ministers. These include representatives of some Arab and Muslim countries he will meet for the first time.
But Peres implied there would be no secret dealings with Syrian or other representatives.
GULF STATES NOT READY YET
The foreign minister said ending the state of war with Israel would be a “confidence-building measure” during the peace process.
Meanwhile, Israel Radio reported that the secretary-general of the Gulf Cooperation Council said it is premature to consider normalized relations with Israel.
The radio also reported that the government-owned press in Damascus has called for a tightening of the boycott, which, it said, could only be lifted after the full restoration of Palestinian rights and the return of Arab land.
Syria, whose negotiations with Israel over the future of the Golan Heights have been effectively placed on the sideline by the PLO accord, has given only the barest of approval to the agreement.
A commentary Sunday on Damascus Radio referred directly to Peres’ call for ending the state of war and the boycott, saying that his “provocative statement proved Israel wants everything in return for nothing.”
And the government newspaper Tishreen editorialized: “Arabs are requested to tighten rather than abolish the boycott against Israel because two years of talks on the Middle East in Washington produced nothing, due to Israeli rejection of the basis of just and comprehensive peace.”