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Two Solons Support Efforts to Get Arab Countries to Agree to Face-to-face Talks with Israel

April 24, 1985
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The Reagan Administration’s effort to get Arab countries to agree to face-to-face negotiations with Israel as the next step in the Middle East peace process, was supported by two U.S. Senators before a predominently Jewish audience last night.

Sen. Richard Lugar (R.Ind.)., chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Sen. Howell Heflin (D.Ala.) made their appeal before an overflow audience of more than 1,500 persons at the banquet of the 26th annual policy conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) at the Crystal City Hyatt Regency Hotel here.

Their remarks followed Secretary of State George Shultz’s address to the opening session Sunday in which he declared, “Now is the time for the Arabs to let negotiations proceed.”

Noting that President Regan has called for direct negotiations and that the U.S. should not be a “surrogate,” Lugar declared, “If Arab nations cannot sit down and talk directly with Israel, then what promise do any future agreements really hold?”

Lugar stressed that the U.S. “remains vitally interested” in the Middle East peace process, but “we cannot control it and we cannot compel the parties to accept it.” However, he added:

“We look to each of the nations of the Middle East to shoulder its responsibilities in bringing peace in the region. With some nations, to be sure, the prospects for responsible action are greater than with others. But we cannot exempt any nation from the obligations of civil discourse and adherence to the time-honored norms of international behavior.

“For this reason, I would call upon all nations who have not done so to end the formal state of war with the nation of Israel.”

Heflin said there are two steps needed for the peace process to move forward successfully. “First, the legitimate Arab states must recognize the existence of Israel, and second, they must demonstrate a willingness to negotiate directly with Israel.”


Heflin, who made his first visit to Israel two weeks ago, said he found in Jerusalem a unified city free of strife. “I saw Moslems, Christians and Jews worship freely,” he recalled.

“They live side-by-side and enjoy a spiritual freedom and economic prosperity never known there before. The Moslem holy places are completely protected and respected, as are the sites sacred to Judaism and Christianity. The government of Israel and Mayor (Teddy) Kollek have established that peace and co-existence can be structured and practiced in the Middle East.”

Noting that his stay in Israel coincided with Passover, Heflin said he visited an absorption center for Ethiopian Jews who, he said, “truely illustrated the Passover story — slavery to freedom. ‘Operation Moses’ makes hollow the charge that ‘Zionism is racism’ and proclaims Zionism as a national liberation movement of the Jewish people without color barriers.”


Meier Rosenne, Israel’s Ambassador to the U.S., read a cable from Premier Shimon Peres in which he said, “We are grateful and inspired by the work you have done at strengthening the ties between our two countries, two democracies working together for a better and more peaceful world.”

President Reagan, in a message to AIPAC, declared: “U.S.-Israel relations, always close, are warmer and stronger than ever. Israel has a special place in the minds and hearts of Americans.” Reagan pledged that the U.S. commitment to Israel “remains iron-clad.”

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