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At the World Jewish Congress: Peres Offers Palestinians a Choice

February 4, 1986
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Premier Shimon Peres called upon the Palestinians to decide whether they want to negotiate a solution to their problem or to continue supporting the Palestine Liberation Organization.

“They have to make a choice between the PLO without a solution or a solution without the PLO,” the Premier told the concluding session of the 8th plenary assembly of the World Jewish Congress at the Knesset last Thursday night.

But Peres stressed that the Palestinians and King Hussein of Jordan must make a decision soon because “time is running out for the Palestinians and the region.” He said Israel is “ready to talk freely, directly, as equals…without the wish to dominate another people.”

Peres said the “Palestinians are not our enemies … and we would like to see their problems solved.” But he stressed it can be solved “by diplomatic means” and not through continued “Palestinian violence.”


The Premier rejected any role for the Soviet Union in the Middle East peace process “until they reestablish diplomatic relations with Israel and open the gates (of emigration) to Soviet Jewry.”

He noted that Israel attended the 1970 Geneva conference, in which the USSR was cochairman with the United States, despite the lack of such relations because the Soviets had begun large-scale emigration in 1969. “If I have to choose between Soviet Jews here or Soviet diplomats, I choose the Jews first,” he said.

“I cannot single out one reason why Soviet Russia opened her gate and cannot single out another reason why she closed it,” Peres said. He urged a continuation of every method used to seek increased emigration — demonstrations, public declarations, quiet diplomacy.

Peres praised the support of President Reagan and Secretary of State George Shultz and their predecessors for their support of Soviet Jewry, and that of Congress, singling out the late Sen. Henry Jackson (D. Wash.).

He urged the WJC to continue its efforts for Soviet Jewry. On the dais was former refusenik Eliahu Essas, who immigrated to Israel recently as a result of efforts by WJC president Edgar Bronfman. Peres noted that he had given Bronfman a letter to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev but was still waiting for a reply from the Kremlin.

Bronfman, who was reelected to a second five-year term as president, thanked Peres for his “hechsher” and said he “couldn’t agree more ” than that all ways should be tried to convince Moscow to restore emigration.


Also addressing the 800 delegates celebrating the WJC’s 50th anniversary was Vernon Walters, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, who stressed the common bonds between Israel and the U.S., including that both countries have been the victims of terrorism. “Both of our peoples have been targets for evil men,” he said.

Walters said he believed in the “doctrine of constructive ambiguity” in deciding how to retaliate against terrorists. “Let them worry about how we will retaliate,” he said.

Fluent in eight languages, Walters won the audience by his reference to Jewish history and quotations from Jewish tradition, sometimes in Hebrew. There were suggestions he enroll in an ulpan since he was not yet fluent in Hebrew.

Also speaking was former Vice President Walter Mondale, who urged the need for developing Israel’s high-tech economy so that the Jewish State can become economically, as well as politically, independent.

In particular, he said, he would work on urging U.S. multinational companies to invest in Israel and urged the WJC delegates to do the same in the U.S. and other countries. He noted that in 38 years, only $2 billion had been invested in Israel by foreign companies despite Israel’s “obvious attractions.”

“Where are our major banks, where are our major companies, that locate in nations 50 or 60 miles from here?” he asked. “Where are the major multinationals from Europe, Japan and elsewhere?”

He said the answer was the Arab boycott which, since the passage of anti-boycott laws in the U.S. and elsewhere, has gone underground but may be more effective. “We should tell our American businessmen that it is now a shared American purpose to prosper along with Israel,” Mondale said. “That’s why we have that Free Trade Agreement” which went into effect January I between the U.S. and Israel.

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