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December 14, 1990 - Image 31

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-12-14

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

G

F

C R

Bush:
Skirted major differences.

Shamir:
"Trusts" Bush.

Shamir And Bush Strive
To Accent The Positive

By avoiding the deeper issues, the two men
managed to project a common agenda.

JAMES D. BESSER and
IRA RIFKIN

Special to The Jewish News

F

ollowing a month of
nervous anticipation,
this week's critical
meeting between Israeli
Prime Minister Yitzhak
Shamir and President
George Bush — their first
direct communication in 10
months — apparently went a
long way toward ac-
complishing the fence-
mending that was its
primary purpose.
The two-hour meeting did
not deal substantially with
many of the underlying
problems that have propell-
ed U.S.-Israeli relations into
a sickening slide in recent
months. But Mr. Shamir
said he was satisfied with
President Bush's remarks
concerning U.S. resolve not
to link any peaceful set-
tlement of the Persian Gulf
crisis with a forced resolu-
tion of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict that
threatens Israel's security.
"I trust what the president
said," the Israeli leader told
reporters following the
White House meeting. "He
said it several times, and he

said it to me now again, that
there would not be any deal
at the expense of Israel."
Avi Pazner, a senior ad-
viser to Mr. Shamir, also
said after the session that
the prime minister assured
Mr. Bush that Israel would
not abandon its low profile
in the Gulf crisis — a stance
that the U.S. has urged so as
not to upset the uneasy Arab
alliance aligned with it
against Iraq.
Mr. Bush also provided
something the Israelis have
desperately craved since the
start of the now four-month-
old Gulf crisis; an
acknowledgment that this
low profile role has con-
tributed to the success of
American strategy in the re-
gion.
In recent weeks, there
have been growing Israeli
complaints that the ad-
ministration was emphasiz-
ing the coalition's health at
Israel's expense.
"Symbolically, this was an
important outcome of the
meeting," according to a
leading American pro-Israel
activist. "The Israelis need
to know that Washington
recognizes that they're play-
ing an important role in this

crisis, even if they don't
have troops on the ground in
Saudi Arabia. They needed
to be thanked, which is what
happened."
The results of the private
meeting were more ambigu-
ous in a number of other
areas critical to the Israelis.
That lack of clarity was in-
dicative of the meeting's
primary purpose — relation-
ship building, not problem
solving.
"They obviously tried to
accentuate the positive, to
find the areas where they
could agree," said Abraham
Forman, executive director
of the Anti-Defamation
League of B'nai B'rith.
"That's very important. It
doesn't mean that we've
resolved the basic issues.
But it's an important step."
One administration official
said the meeting was an at-
tempt to "leave the past
behind and start afresh."
A prime example of the
great length to which the
two leaders went to avoid
friction was that they did not
directly discuss the U.N.
Security Council resolution
calling for an international
Middle East peace con-
ference, even though the

measure was the subject of
intense negotiations involv-
ing Washington and several
Arab nations even as the two
men met.
Mr. Bush, according to
sources, did not offer any
assurances that the U.S.
would support Israel in its
opposition to an interna-
tionally convened Middle
East conference, an idea that
is anathema to Israel.
They also steered clear of
any potentially explosive
discussion of Israel's re-
sponse to the Temple Mount
incident in October, and re-
cent U.S. support for U.N.
resolutions critical of Israel.
There were reports that
Mr. Shamir was saving the
most explosive issue — the
question of the U.N. resolu-
tions — for his meeting with
Secretary of State James
Baker later in the week.
The president did not
commit to additional U.S.
aid to help Israel absorb the
flood of Jews arriving from
the Soviet Union. While Mr.
Bush indicated strong inter-
est in the absorption process,
he suggested that his ad-
ministration would wait to
see how the current
U.S.-backed housing loan

guarantee program works
before deciding on additional
programs.
Mr. Bush also promised
that the U.S. would continue
to supply Israel with the
weapons that provide
Israel's military edge. But
the president also repeated
his argument that the
United States must also
meet the legitimate defense
needs of friendly Arab
nations.
A Bush-Shamir summit
has been at the top of the
agenda for pro-Israel forces
in Washington and in Israel
who viewed it as a way of
cooling the enmity that has
existed between the two men
since before the current Gulf
crisis.
It was widely reported that
Mr. Bush had refused to
even speak on the telephone
with Mr. Shamir since early
this year — a snub that the
Israelis and their supporters
took very seriously.
There were widespread
concerns that the lack of
contact between the two
leaders was sending a clear
message to Arab nations
that Israel — once this coun-
try's leading strategic part-
ner in the region — was no
longer a central part of
Washington's Middle East
policy.
As a result, when Mr.
Shamir's visit to Washing-
ton was first announced, the
administration came under
strong pressure from pro-
Israel groups to extend a
White House invitation. At
first, those overtures were
consistently rebuffed.

All of that changed in
November, when President
Bush took a side trip during
his Persian Gulf tour and
met with Syrian president
Hafez al-Assad, an event
that raised the anxiety level
of the Israelis and added to
the pressure on the ad-
ministration to meet with
Mr. Shamir.
At that point, the ad-
ministration was literally
forced into arranging a
meeting with Mr. Shamir.
But there was speculation
that this fact would only in-
crease the tensions between
the two leaders.
According to early reports,
these fears proved unfound-
ed.
"It was a warm, friendly
meeting," said Seymour
Reich, chairman of the Con-
ference of Presidents of
Major American Jewish
Organizations.



THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

31

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