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Peres Confers with Reagan, Gets Boost from White House

May 18, 1988
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The Reagan administration issued a statement Tuesday that appeared to endorse positions on the Middle East peace process advanced by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres.

The statement, issued by the White House after Peres concluded a 30-minute meeting with President Reagan, said:

“While being steadfast in his commitment to Israeli strength and security, the foreign minister has a vision for the future, recognizes the increasing danger of the status quo and understands the negative consequences of passivity and delay in the search for a settlement.”

The White House contrasted this position with “those leaders who are negative, consistently reject new ideas and fail to exploit realistic opportunities to bring about negotiations, making progress impossible. In the end they will have to answer to their own people for the suffering that will inevitably result.”

This warning was similar to one made by Reagan after his meeting with Premier Yitzhak Shamir in March.

Neither statement mentioned Shamir by name, but both appeared to be aimed at the prime minister, who has steadfastly refused a U.S. proposal that Israel participate in an international peace conference as a prelude to direct negotiations with Israel’s Arab neighbors. Peres supports this idea.

When Peres was asked by a reporter at the White House whether the Reagan administration is supporting him in the upcoming elections in Israel, the foreign minister replied that the United States does not involve itself in Israeli polities and that Israeli officials do not interfere in American elections.

In Jerusalem, Shamir’s office issued a statement playing down the White House remarks, saying the Reagan administration has said such things before. Aides to Shamir said the Prime Minister’s Office would have to study the full text of the statement before issuing a formal reply.


Peres emerged from his meeting with Reagan expressing confidence that the president will pursue the Middle East peace process during his summit talks with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow, which begins May 29.

He told reporters that Reagan promised he would discuss the peace process, the need for Moscow to resume diplomatic relations with Israel and the cause of Soviet Jewry with his Soviet counterpart.

But Peres cautioned that he did not expect an agreement to be reached in Moscow on the peace process, but rather a continuation of the effort by the United States to bring about negotiations between Israel and Jordan.

Peres said that he stressed to Reagan that the peace process is complicated, but that “there is no reason to give up and no reason to feel we have reached the end of the road.” He added that “the United States is determined to continue the peace movement and so are we.”

Peres said that the Soviets could play a part in the peace process “if they are serious in their support of peace, if they are not enemies of Israel” and if they resume diplomatic relations with Jerusalem.

Noting that Israel and the Soviets have been holding discussions on resuming relations, Peres said, “They have told me what has happened over the last year is almost a drama in the relations between the Soviet Union and Israel, to which I replied, ‘Maybe it’s a drama, but … it is not dramatic enough.’ “

Peres was asked if the Soviet Union and the United States reached an agreement on a peace framework whether Israel could go along, a reference to the split in Israel’s national unity government over the wisdom of an international conference, which Premier Yitzhak Shamir opposes.

He replied that there is a consensus for direct negotiations, but since Knesset elections will be held by November, “the people will decide.”

Peres said that he called on Reagan because he was nearing the end of his term as foreign minister, and he wanted “to express the gratitude of the Jewish people and the State of Israel to the president of the United States for his support.”


In addition to the White House meeting, Peres had five to six hours of talks with Secretary of State George Shultz during his two-day visit to Washington, culminating with a working lunch at the State Department Tuesday.

Shultz is scheduled to return to the Middle East on June 3, after the Moscow summit, to again press his peace proposals. While some experts have called the trip futile, Peres stressed to reporters at the White House that he believes it is necessary for the continuation of the peace process.

He said if Shultz did not go, it would be perceived as an end to the peace process and a return to “the arms race, with the new Chinese toys tempting many immature people,” a reference to the Chinese intermediate-range ballistic missiles recently bought by Saudi Arabia.

Shultz also stressed the importance of his upcoming trip in remarks following the State Department lunch.

“The situation is not improving, and the status quo remains unacceptable,” he said. “So I am returning to the region to reaffirm our belief that a workable avenue to peace exists.”

Shultz acknowledged that “surely, the odds against a breakthrough are high. Pessimism and cynicism run deep.”

But he added, “Some have tried to say the plan won’t work, but they have failed. The plan can work. It can bring about negotiations. It can achieve peace.”

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