NEW YORK (Nov. 1)
Shimon Peres, leader of Israel’s opposition Labor Alignment, said here yesterday that he believes the conclusion of a peace treaty with Egypt “is a matter of a few weeks.” But once the treaty is signed, he observed, Israel will have “a divided peace” and “a divided belligerency.”
Addressing a press conference here sponsored by the American Jewish Committee, Peres, who served as Defense Minister and Acting Prime Minister in the last Labor-led government, warned that peace with Egypt will not free Israel from the threat of war with its other neighbors.
He said that Israel faced the combined forces of Syria and Iraq on its northern frontier which he claimed had the equivalent military strength of the NATO powers. On its eastern border with Jordan, Peres said, Israel would continue to face “a complicated situation” and will have to find a solution of the West Bank and Palestinian problems.
UNEASY ABOUT EXTENT OF U.S. INVOLVEMENT
Peres reiterated his uneasiness over the extent of American involvement in the current Israeli-Egyptian treaty talks and suggested that it would be “better” if Israel and Egypt did more of the negotiating between themselves without the U.S. He claimed that if Labor were in power in Israel it would have negotiated a better agreement with Egypt than the Likud-led government of Premier Menachem Begin.
Peres said Labor would have been less hardline on the West Bank but “tougher” on Sinai where it has agreed to withdraw to the 1967 borders without insisting on the retention of “defensible borders.”
Peres spoke last night at an Israel Bond testimonial dinner at the Beth El Synagogue-Center in New Rochelle, N.Y. honoring Mr. and Mrs. Albert Schmeidler. Replying to questions, he said there “is a possibility” that Israel and Egypt will reach an accord within the three-month period mandated by the Camp David agreements. “Allowing for the unexpected, it can be done in a short period of time,” he said. “I am convinced Israel and Egypt already have made their major decisions at Camp David and before Camp David and now we are basically dealing with tactics and technicalities, not really with strategy.”
In his prepared speech, Peres stressed that a peace treaty with Egypt would not lessen Israel’s need for investment capital. “My message to you,” Peres said, “is one that will convey what peace will mean to a nation whose growth has too long been restrained by overwhelming defense needs. Peace demands imagination, so our message goes out to Egypt, too, with whom we can together fulfill important aims for the Middle East; to put an end to wars, to assure an air of tranquility for the children of both countries and to put our resources together to make the desert fully bloom.”