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September 13, 1991 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1991-09-13

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

BACKGROUND

The $10 Billion
Fue•Off

Washington has upped the ante
considerably by linking Soviet
resettlement loan guarantees with
Middle East peace talks.

Foreign Correspondent

S

ecretary of State
James Baker is ex-
pected to arrive in
Jerusalem this weekend amid
a deepening crisis over
Israel's request for a $10
billion loan guarantee to
help absorb Soviet immi-
grants.
The application was lodged
by Israeli Ambassador to the
United States Zalman
Shoval last Friday despite a
request. by President Bush
and Mr. Baker to delay it
until after the proposed Oc-
tober start of the planned
Middle East peace con-
ference.
The administration was
clearly hoping to use the

issue of the loan guarantee
to ensure Israel's attendance
at the conference and to
freeze settlement activity in
the occupied territories.
Equally clearly, Israel was
hoping to rally its forces and
draw on its deep support in
Congress to override the
administration.
President Bush and Mr.
Baker, however, moved
swiftly to preempt this
move, issuing strenuous ap-
peals to congressional
leaders to delay considera-
tion of the application for
120 days.
"We will take no chance of
unraveling the peace pro-
cess," said President Bush.
"I know it is in the interest
of world peace to have this
deferred."
Mr. Baker said he sought

the delay because of the
"very sensitive diplomatic
efforts" underway as part of
the peace process.
He did not want these
efforts to be "undercut," he
said, and he urged Congress
"to give us the time we need
to study and explore this re-
quest and deal with it."
But Prime Minister Yit-
zhak Shamir insisted that
Israel would not bend. "I
hope he does not mean to put
pressure on us. Our Ameri-
can friends know we are
more forthcoming in an at-
mosphere of cooperation
than confrontation," Mr.
Shamir said.
Then, in a reference to the
fragile arrangements that
Mr. Baker has put in place
for the peace talks, Mr.
Shamir interjected an
ominous note. "Israel is anx-
ious for the conference to
start as soon as possible, but
only if its terms are fulfilled
to ensure a fair and objective
[forum]in which an anti-
Israeli result is not a forgone
conclusion.
"As Secretary Baker said,
everything has an impact.
This may have an impact as
well," Mr. Shamir warned.
The prime minister in-
sisted there should be no
linkage between assistance
for the absorption of Soviet
immigrants and Israel's set-
tlement policies:
"American aid to absorb
immigration is a human-
itarian enterprise of the
highest order and should not
be affected by, or hinge on,
any political conditions."
Asked if he would consider
suspending settlement ac-
tivities in advance of the
peace conference, he said:.

"I do not see settlements
as a violation of order,
justice or rights in any way."
Israeli Deputy Foreign
Minister Binyamin
Netanyahu was also quick to
accuse Mr. Baker of creating
an "unjustifiable link" bet-
ween humanitarian and po-
litical issues.
"I hope America does not
renege on its traditional
efforts to absorb the Soviet
Jews in Israel," he said. "We
cannot hold hostage the hu-
manitarian task of absorb-

Washington's move
may have been
aimed at
preventing Housing
Minister Ariel
Sharon from
scuttling the peace
conference.

ing these people, who are
effectively refugees, to some
political demand coming
from Arab quarters.
"I also hope people under-
stand that such an attempt
would be totally counter-
productive. If the Arabs
believe that America will
put pressure on Israel, what
possible incentive will they
have to make corn-
promises?"
The most dire warning
came from Knesset Speaker
Dov Shilansky, who said
that "a government which
stops settling the West Bank
signs its own death war-
rant."
Soviet immigrants were
not encouraged to settle in
the West Bank, but he said it
was inconceivable that an

Monday's announcement of
a four-month delay may ease
tension between Yitzhak
Shamir, above, and George
Bush, below left.

Israeli government would
prevent Jews from settling
in the territories. "What
would international public
opinion say if blacks were
not allowed to settle in parts
of the Bronx?" he asked.
Washington's move may
well be aimed at preventing
Israeli Housing Minister
Ariel Sharon from attemp-
ting to torpedo the peace
conference planned for next
month, sources noted.
Mr. Sharon, who controls
the pace and scope of set-
tlement \ activities, recently
used his cabinet vote to op-
pose Israeli participation in
the proposed peace con-
ference, which he described
as a "historic mistake."
He knows that conspicuous
settlement in the weeks
leading up to the conference
will poison the negotiating
atmosphere, and, possibly,
scuttle the peace conference
itself.
On two occasions earlier
this year, Mr. Sharon
deliberately set out to em-
barrass Mr. Baker and
undercut his initiative by
announcing the estab-
lishment of new settlements
in the occupied territories
during critical stages in his
diplomatic shuttles to the
region.
Such settlements are
regarded in Washington as
major obstacles to peace

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

29

1011MNi

HELEN DAVIS

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