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Reagan, Shamir Unable to Overcome Differences on U.S. Peace Plan

March 17, 1988
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Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and President Reagan ended two hours of talks at the White House Wednesday with Reagan stressing that the U.S. peace plan cannot be “sliced” up, while Shamir reiterated his opposition to the international peace conference.

“The United States will not slice this initiative apart and will not abandon it,” Reagan said during the departure ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

“And those who will say ‘no’ to the U.S. plan — and the prime minister has not used this world — need not answer to us. They will have to answer to themselves and their people as to why they turned down a realistic and sensible plan to achieve negotiation,” the president said.

But Shamir, repeating the remarks he made Tuesday after his meeting with Secretary of State George Shultz, said, “I have strong reservations concerning the proposed international conference, which in my view is not conducive to peace.”

Shamir, in an apparent effort to encourage modifications of the plan, said Wednesday that months ago he accepted a Shultz proposal to launch direct negotiations under the auspices of the United States and the Soviet Union. “Unfortunately, it was rejected. Nevertheless, I shall be ready to consider a similar proposal,” the Israeli premier said.

Shultz made the proposal on his way to meetings in Moscow, but it was rejected by King Hussein of Jordan.


A senior administration official, who briefed reporters after the White House talks Wednesday, said the new U.S. plan “satisfies nobody completely, but we think it satisfies everybody’s essential needs.” He said Shamir’s opposition to a peace conference did not constitute a “slamming of the doors.”

“We will always, in describing our proposal, describe it as workable. And (if) you start pulling it apart, selecting elements from that proposal, it is not going to be workable. It’s as simple as that. It’s an integral whole. And we will continue to stand on that position,” the official said.

The official reiterated the goal of starting negotiations on interim measures for the West Bank and Gaza Strip as early as May. Six months after those negotiations begin, up to 12 months of final-status negotiations would occur. The international peace conference would occur two weeks before interim negotiations commenced, presumably in mid-April.

Israel will formally respond to the U.S. plan next week, after a Cabinet debate on the proposals, Shamir announced at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

In his remarks at the East Room departure ceremony, Reagan called for “real progress” to “break the deadlock that has lasted far too long.”

“We have seen a new sense of urgency on the part of many in the region and a wide recognition of the reality that the status quo is unacceptable,” the president said.

Shamir stressed the close cooperation between Israel and the United States and said that it will continue despite any differences between the two countries.


“I return to Jerusalem confident that with the friendship and understanding of the United States government and its people we shall succeed” in the peace effort, the Israeli leader told Reagan.

According to an administration official, Reagan told Shamir in private conversations that the Palestine Liberation Organization is “once again revealing its real intent: It says no to peace and yes to terrorism.”

The president also told Shamir they must find a way “to get moderate Palestinians and Arab governments to take a stake in the process, in becoming assertive,” the official said.

The two leaders also discussed Soviet Jewry, economic issues, Lebanon and quality of life for Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

During the White House ceremony Wednesday, Reagan said Soviet Jewry is “at the top of my agenda in my discussions with (Soviet) Secretary (Mikhail) Gorbachev.” The president is scheduled to go to Moscow later this year for his fourth summit with Gorbachev.

Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze will be in Washington the week of March 21 and will discuss the Middle East peace process with Shultz.

The departure ceremony was held in the East Room, rather than outside as planned, because of the cold. In his concluding remarks, Reagan wished Shamir and Israel a happy 40th anniversary.

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