NEW YORK (Dec. 20)
The Arab boycott of companies doing business with Israel is “largely breaking down already,” Secretary of State Warren Christopher said this week.
Christopher said that while there is likely to be no formal renunciation of the Arab League’s secondary and tertiary boycott of Israel, “you can see it taking place on the practical level.”
Christopher was speaking to reporters Monday, following a private address to Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations at which he reported on his recent visit to the Middle East.
The secretary of state said that “ice is being broken” in terms of Israel’s relations with the Arab world.
He confirmed reports that Morocco had promised to establish mail and telephone links with Israel, and said that Tunisia is likely to take similar steps, including permitting Israelis of Tunisian origin to visit the country.
Christopher said he had the sense that the apparently deadlocked Israeli-Palestinian talks over the details of the Israeli army’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank are “moving forward now.”
He reiterated that the United States will not intervene in the talks unless both sides request it.
But he said that the peace process is irreversible.
“The changes in attitudes have affected entire circumstances in the region, so I don’t think it will go back to status quo ante,” he told the reporters.
“The declaration of principles will be carried forward by the parties,” he said, referring to the agreement signed Sept. 13 by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
ARAFAT PRESSED TO ABIDE BY ACCORD
He told the Conference of Presidents that the United States was pressing PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat to abide by the accord he signed with Israel and was urging him not to cling to symbols, according to people present during his speech.
Regarding Syrian President Hafez Assad’s promise to allow his country’s remaining 800 Jews to leave the country by the end of the year, Christopher said he was confident the pledge would be “substantially carried out” by the time Clinton meets with Assad next month, according to sources present at the address.
But fulfilling that promise is not a precondition for the meeting, Christopher reportedly told the Jewish organizational leaders.
He was quoted as saying, however, that Syrian failure to keep the promise would “affect the atmosphere of the talks” with Clinton.
While the meeting broke little new ground, “the important thing is he’s sensitive to our concerns and feels he had to speak to the Jewish community about his trip,” said Rabbi Israel Miller, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents who was among those attending the meeting.