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Peres Angrily Denies Being Offered Bribe on Pipeline

February 2, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, choking with rage, fiercely denied Monday that any attempt had been made to offer him a bribe in connection with a proposed Iraqi oil pipeline to the Jordanian port of Aqaba.

“Israel agreed not to harm the pipeline. Both parties in the unity government agreed — so there was no need to bribe anyone,” Peres told an army radio interviewer.

He accused Israeli reporters of “inaccuracy,” noting that allegations from the United States do not claim a bribe was offered or even discussed with him to ensure that Israel would not sabotage the pipeline when it was projected in 1985.

A special prosecutor in Washington, James McKay, is investigating allegations that U.S. Attorney General Edwin Meese was closely involved in the pipeline in which his close friend E. Robert Wallach had a financial interest.

According to the allegations, Meese had knowledge of plans to offer a bribe to Israel’s Labor Party, headed by Peres, who was then premier, to ensure that Israel would not interfere in the $1.1 billion oil conduit, which would have passed close to its territory.

The matter supposedly was discussed with Bruce Rappaport, described as a Swiss businessman and longtime friend of Peres. Rappaport was enlisted by the San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp., reputed contractor for the pipeline, ostensibly to act as a go-between with the Israelis.

“What have I got to be questioned about?” Peres asked, coughing with rage, when pressed about reports from Washington that certain foreign parties might be questioned in the investigation of Meese’s alleged role. If Meese was aware that bribes were to be offered, his duty would have been to initiate proceedings under U.S. laws that forbid bribing foreign officials.

Peres said Israel’s decision not to interfere with the proposed pipeline did not signify a switch of support from Iran to Iraq in the Persian Gulf war. He denied, however, that Israel supported Iran. He said the Israel government believed the pipeline could have been a “factor contributing to strategic calm and stability.” In any event, it was never built.

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