WASHINGTON (Feb. 7)
The longtime Arab economic boycott of Israel is “tumbling down,” Secretary of State Warren Christopher told the World Jewish Congress this week.
Christopher addressed several hundred WJC leaders from around the world who were here for their biannual governing board meeting. He spoke at a luncheon Monday in the ornate Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department.
In his remarks, the secretary said the Clinton administration has been working hard to remove the boycott of Israel, and particularly the secondary boycott, under which many Arab countries will not do business with companies around the world that conduct business with Israel.
According to participants, Christopher spoke about Morocco, Tunisia and now Qatar beginning to explore business dealings with Israel.
He also referred to legislation recently passed in the Senate that would prohibit arms sales to countries abiding by the boycott, calling it a very important tool in the battle against the boycott.
Christopher also expressed optimism about the outcome of the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian talks, saying he felt they would reach an agreement in the near future.
He was quoted as saying that the fact that Israeli leaders were beginning to work with Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat would “pay dividends in the future.”
Christopher reiterated the administration’s commitment to Israel and to the concerns of Jewish leaders.
“Your concerns are our concerns,” he said, mentioning specifically the $10 billion in U.S. loan guarantees given to Israel, and the Clinton administration’s efforts on behalf of Syrian Jews.
He noted that almost all Syrian Jews now have exit permits. There are about 1,200 Jews remaining in the country, and many should be starting to leave shortly.
In addition, said participants, he discussed problems in Europe, including the rise of nationalism and of Russian ultranationalist Vladimir Zhirinovsky, and the continuing fighting in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
He said the administration placed a high priority on trying to resolve the Bosnian war and achieve a final settlement.
He referred to the weekend’s attack on a Sarajevo market, in which 68 people were killed, as “grotesque” and “horrible,” and said that the administration was in the middle of an intensive policy review to determine a future course of action.
The secretary also said that the administration was supportive of efforts to recover Jewish property in Eastern Europe that had been taken over by the Nazis and the Communists, and would do all it could to help.
The WJC leaders also heard from other top State Department officials Monday, who discussed the peace process and human rights.
They were also scheduled to hear from Israeli officials. On Tuesday, WJC officials were to testify before Congress on anti-Semitism, and Wednesday to meet with President Clinton.