Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Peres, on U.S. Visit, Cautions Against Slowing Peace Process

September 10, 1996
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Former Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres said this week that he welcomed as a “necessary step” the recent meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority leader Yasser Arafat.

“It could have happened before,” he said, “but better later than never.”

Peres cautioned against slowing down the peace process, saying that the meeting between the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian leader should be followed up with a fulfillment of the self-rule accords, including a timely redeployment of Israeli troops from most of Hebron.

Peres, reflective and looking rested, made the comments Monday before the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

It was the same day that Ehud Barak, foreign minister under Peres, declared his candidacy for Labor Party leader. Peres has not decided whether to run again for the post in June’s party elections.

Former Ministers Ephraim Sneh and Haim Ramon are also expected to seek the party chairmanship.

Meanwhile, Peres urged against wasting time in the pursuit of peace with Syria, saying, “the Jewish people don’t have as much time as we might think.”

He said a host of “borderless” dangers loom, including terrorism, non- conventional weapons and fundamentalist groups.

Peres broke off talks with Damascus in early March after Syrian President Hafez Assad refused to condemn a series of Hamas suicide bombings in Israel.

His meeting with the U.S. Jewish leaders in New York came on the day that Netanyahu met with President Clinton at the White House to discuss ways to restart the Israeli-Syrian negotiations.

Peres said it was unrealistic to expect that peace with Syria would be achieved without a cost.

“I don’t believe Assad will satisfy himself with a lesser price” than was paid to Egypt, he said, referring to the return of the Sinai as part of the Camp David accords.

Asked to reflect on his loss in May’s elections, he called politics “a risky business” and indicated that he had few regrets.

Peres spoke of pride in having “revolutionized the situation” and said one must “choose either to be popular” or to be “controversial and serve the future.”

He also said he saw no reason why opposition party members should refrain from publicly expressing their views when outside Israel.

But he added that there was no need to lobby the United States government on the peace process.

“The United States of America, for reasons of her own, is deeply interested in the peace process,” he said. “It’s a policy without an alternative.”

Recommended from JTA