NEW YORK (Sep. 12)
The amiable relations between President Clinton and Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin were manifest in a satellite teleconference held Monday to mark the first anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The agreement, signed on the White House lawn on Sept. 13, 1993, granted self-rule to the Palestinians for the first time and paved the way for a year of warming relations between Israel and all its Arab neighbors.
The teleconference gave American Jews from New York, Washington and 70 other communities around the country the opportunity to ask Rabin questions and to describe to him their efforts over the past year on behalf of the peace process.
A 76-page booklet highlighting the American Jewish community’s “activities in support of Israel’s search for peace” was released before the joint appearance by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which sponsored the satellite broadcast.
“With each step in the peace process, individual communities, local and national organizations, synagogues and youth groups have been energized to do more and indeed are continuing to do so,” said Lynn Lyss, chair of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council.
“Our community’s activism has encouraged the Clinton administration and Congress to make continuing the peace process one of the key priorities for our foreign policy,” she said.
Those listening to the broadcast, which was moderated by Marvin Kalb, professor of press and public policy at Harvard and Georgetown universities, heard of the efforts of Jewish students at Yale University and members of the Montana region of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
‘THANKS FOR THE REMARKABLE YEAR’
Representatives of the American-Israel Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Metropolitan Chicago and the Los Angeles Jewish Community Relations Council also described what they have done to support the peace process.
Cliton, who recorded his remarks earlier, wished the Jewish community “Shanah Tovah,” with “thanks for the remarkable year we have just lived and optimism for the year ahead.
“What a year it has been,” he said, “a dawn of a new era in the Middle East, of conciliation and hope.”
Clinton singled out the King of Morocco, who this month established diplomatic ties with Israel, as he saluted Arab leaders “for standing up to the naysayers and embracing change.”
The “small steps” of normalization this past year between Israel and the Arab world pave the way “for greater steps to come,” said Clinton.
He added that “we have a right to expect that participants in the peace process live up to their commitments,” and urged the dismanting of the Arab boycott of Israel.
Noting the terrotist attacks this summer against Jews in Argentina, Panama and England, Clinton urged the American Jewish community nonetheless to “continue its support for peace and the peace process.
“I pledge we will do our part to ensure that it is a lasting and secure peace,” said the president.
Clinton also reiterated his admiration for Rabin, extending him “an open invitation to visit the White House, because every time you come here, we seem to move a step closer to lasting peace in the Middle East.”
For his part, Rabin joined in the mutual admiration, praising Clinton as “a staunch supporter of Israel,” ready to assist in advancing the peace process while realizing that “Israel has to remain strong for the sake of the achievement of peace.”
Rabin outlined the strategic goal of peace, as a means to foil “the ugly wave of Islamic fundamentalist terrorist movements.”
A comprehensive peace, he said, will change the region and remove the social difficulties in which the terror groups flourish.
Already, said Rabin, the peace process has brought Israel concrete benefits. “We increased our exports last year by 18 percent,” he said, “and 80 percent of that” is with countries with which Israel had no prior trade relations.
Rabin lambasted the Palestinians for failing to make a sufficient effort to squelch terrorism.
If a “real effort” is not made, “we will have to consider certain aspects in the going forward” of the Declaration of Principles, he said.
In contrast, Rabin’s remarks concerning Syria were positive.
“I believe there are signs of slight improvements” in Syria’s attitudes toward peace, he said. He mentioned the state-run Syrian television’s broadcast of the Israeli-Jordanian peace ceremonies in Washington and Aqaba, and Syrian President Hafez Assad’s speech last weekend before the Syrian Parliament.
Nonetheless, he said, gaps remain between Israel and Syria on the depth of any withdrawal from the Golan Heights, on how long the withdrawal would take, on an interim testing period and on security arrangements.