UNITED NATIONS (Sep. 28)
By the time Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres took to the General Assembly podium Tuesday, the historic accord between Israel and the Palestinians had already served several of the morning’s speakers as an example of what is right with the world.
It was quite a change from the days when the “Palestine problem” dominated the proceedings of the world body.
For his part, Peres made a plea for regional cooperation and economic development in a speech to the General Assembly that dwelled on tourism but did not once use the word “terrorism.”
He referred only indirectly to some of the issues at the foreground of his private discussions with world leaders this week, including ending the Arab economic boycott of Israel and financing Palestinian development.
Instead, he addressed himself to his Middle East neighbors and tried to draw a picture of the prosperous, peaceful region that they could build together.
As was the case last year — and in contrast to previous years — there was no demonstrative walk-out when Peres began to speak. Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Morocco, as well as observers from the Palestine Liberation Organization, were all present.
Peres stated Israel’s desire to complete the peace outlined with Jordan, and to continue negotiating with Lebanon.
Peres challenged Syria, as he has been doing in recent days, to show its desire for peace.
“We ask the Syrian leadership — if it has chosen peace, why does it refuse to meet openly? If Syria is aiming at the Egyptian fruit of peace it must follow the process that led to it,” he said.
AGE OF DOMINATION ‘IS DEAD’
Looking to construct a “modern Middle East,” Peres listed as prerequisites both wisdom and market economies.
“If the thumping of hammers will replace the thunder of the guns, many of the nations will be more than willing to extend a helping hand,” he said.
He said that Israeli calls to establish a Middle East common market should not be perceived “as an attempt to win preference or to establish domination.
“May I say sincerely and loudly that we did not give up territorial control to engage ourselves in economic superiority. The age of domination, political or economic, is dead. The time of cooperation is open.”
Describing tourism as “the most promising opportunity” for the region, the Israeli foreign minister drew a smile from a listening Jordanian delegate when he included Jordan’s “red palaces of Petra” in a list of regional attractions.
The list began with “the eternity of Jerusalem,” included the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and concluded with the beaches of Gaza and the perfume of Jericho’s fruits.
Toward the beginning of his remarks, two Jewish demonstrators began chanting “Peres is a traitor” before being removed from the gallery.
On Monday, Peres met with African National Congress President Nelson Mandela, the first time the South African leader met with a senior Israeli official.
Mandela accepted an invitation from Peres to visit Israel and expressed his gratitude to the South African Jews who supported his movement and participated in the struggle for freedom.
Peres also met Monday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Amre Moussa, and with the “troika” of foreign ministers who represent the European Community: Michael Papaconstantinou of Greece, Niels Helveg Petersen of Denmark and Willy Claes of Belgium.
Peres asked for European investments in infrastructure and tourism projects in the Middle East.
The Europeans indicated their desire that an updated agreement between the European Community and Israel, which is now being negotiated, be signed by the end of 1993. And they promised to increase their financial support to the territories.
On Sunday, Japanese Foreign Minister Tsutomu Hata promised Peres that his country would use its influence to end the Arab boycott of Israel.