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Public Papers - 1989

Remarks Following Discussions With Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel

1989-04-06

The President. Well, the Prime Minister Shamir and I have had a very productive meeting. My message to him and, through him, to the Government and the people of Israel was clear: We are friends, strategic partners, and allies. And the mutual interests that bind together the people of the United States and Israel are broad and deep. The Prime Minister and I dedicated ourselves to maintaining and, where possible, improving the relationship between our two countries. Both of us are committed to this goal.

Throughout the world, old enemies are finding ways to talk to one another and to end conflicts in a manner that preserves the basic interests of all concerned. This can and must happen in the Middle East. The Arab-Israeli conflict can be resolved. Peace, security, and political rights can be attained through direct negotiations. The status quo serves the interests of no one. In this spirit, I reiterated to Prime Minister Shamir the resolve of the United States to assist the parties of the Middle East in their pursuit of a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Our responsibility as friends and as partners in the search for peace is to help develop approaches that enhance peace prospects. Problems do not resolve themselves; leaders acting with courage and vision solve problems. Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat demonstrated this truth a decade ago at Camp David. Today's leaders can afford to do no less.

I reassured the Prime Minister that the fundamental basis of our approach to a Middle East settlement has not changed. The United States is committed to a comprehensive peace achieved through direct negotiations based on U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. This remains the building block for a viable negotiation for a durable settlement. This is our goal. With regard to final status issues, I reaffirmed to the Prime Minister that we do not support an independent Palestinian state nor Israeli sovereignty or permanent occupation of the West Bank and Gaza.

To move the peace process forward, I discussed with the Prime Minister, as I had earlier this week with President Mubarak, an ambitious but realistic approach. Progress will require meaningful steps to reduce tensions, political dialog between Israel and Palestinians, and clear indications that all concerned are prepared to think creatively about key substantive issues. Israel has an obligation to contribute to this process, but it cannot be expected to assume the entire burden. The Palestinians, the Arab States, and other interested parties must demonstrate that they, too, are willing to make peace a reality.

I stressed that no peace process can succeed in a political vacuum. I believe it is in Israel's interest to engage in a serious dialog with Palestinians that address their legitimate political rights. The United States believes that elections in the territories can be designed to contribute to a political process of dialog and negotiation. We urge Israel and the Palestinians to arrive at a mutually acceptable formula for elections, and we plan in the days and weeks ahead to work toward that end.

In negotiations, Israel understands that Palestinians will be free to bring their own positions and preferences to the bargaining table. The Prime Minister assured me that Israel is committed to negotiating an agreement on final status that is satisfactory to all sides. And he made it clear that interim arrangements on Palestinian self-rule are not the end of the road but are directly linked to a broader political process that includes negotiating and concluding an agreement on final status.

I'm encouraged by the Prime Minister's assurance that all options are open for negotiation. The Prime Minister and I agreed that our governments would remain in close touch to ensure that everything possible is being done to promote the prospects for peace in the Middle East. And speaking for myself and for the American people, I want to assure everyone that the United States is committed to promoting this goal.

Mr. Prime Minister, we're delighted you're here. The floor is yours, sir.

The Prime Minister. Thank you, Mr. President. I am honored to be here today. Let me first, on behalf of the people of Israel and on behalf of my wife and myself, express our warm wishes on your assuming the mantle of leadership of the United States and the free world. We have cherished your personal friendship and warm humanitarian concern for many years. We shall never forget the help you have extended our brothers and sisters in distress, just as we shall always remember the role the United States has played in our history.

Our alliance is based on common values and shared interests. Our agreements on strategic cooperation and free trade area benefit both countries. They help us continue as a vanguard of democracy in the Middle East. I am confident that under your administration our bonds of friendship and cooperation will grow even stronger.

Our two nations share the values and ideas of the free world and the ideals of democracy and freedom. What we do not share is a neighborhood. For us the carnage in Beirut, the use of poison gas against civilians, and acts of terrorism and fanaticism are not news from afar, for as they are events happening around the corner, they are our daily reality. If there is one mistake Israel cannot afford to make, it is the mistake of forgetting where we live.

I would like to reiterate here what I said to you in private: We shall make the greatest possible efforts to achieve peace, short of endangering the security of our state. We consider the establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan River, which is an objective of the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization], a mortal threat to our security. I have assured you that we would sit with anyone, anytime, anywhere, without preconditions if we thought it would advance the cause of peace. But we cannot lend ourselves to any steps that will result in a Palestinian state, which is a prescription not for peace but for war. I can assure you we will be forthcoming. We believe the Camp David accords based on Resolutions 242 and 338 are the cornerstone of peace in our region. We faithfully abide by your agreements, and we expect others to do so as well.

Mr. President, to advance the cause of peace, we have put forward a four-point peace initiative. First, we propose an effort to make the existing peace between Israel and Egypt based on the Camp David accords a cornerstone for expanding peace in the region. We call upon the three signatories of the Camp David accords at this 10th anniversary of the treaty of peace to reaffirm indeed their dedication to the accords.

Second, we call upon the United States and Egypt to make it clear to the Arab Governments that they must abandon their hostility and belligerency toward Israel. They must replace political warfare and economic boycott with negotiations and cooperation.

Third, we call for a multinational effort under the leadership of the U.S. and with substantial Israeli participation to finally solve the Arab refugee problem perpetuated by Arab Governments, while Israel absorbs hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab countries. All these refugees should have decent housing and live in dignity. This process does not have to await a political solution or to substitute for it.

Fourth, in order to launch a political negotiating process, the proposed free democratic elections, free from an atmosphere of PLO violence, terror, and intimidation among the Palestinian Arabs of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza -- their purpose is to produce a delegation to negotiate an interim period of self-governing administration. To shape modalities and participation in the elections will have to be discussed. The interim phase will provide a vital test of coexistence and cooperation. It will be followed by negotiations for a permanent agreement.

All proposed options will be examined during these negotiations. This is an outline of our comprehensive plan for peace. It is based on democratic principles. It addresses the real issues. Together, I believe we can achieve these goals.

May God lead us to the right decision. Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 12:15 p.m. at the South Portico of the White House. Prior to their remarks, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office.

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