Newsletter : 4fax1028.txt
| Previous file
| Next file
>PD OCTOBER 28, 1994 V2, #198
Clinton Begins Visit to Israel
President Bill Clinton arrived in Israel Thursday afternoon
after holding talks with Syrian President Hafez Assad in Damascus
earlier in the day.
Upon arriving in Israel, Clinton said Israel "stands on the
threshold of a new era of peace and security," adding that he hopes
to meet as many Israelis as possible during his visit.
Five thousand police officers have been deployed in Jerusalem for
Clinton's visit, including 500 around the King David Hotel where
the President is staying.
Clinton, who is the third U.S. president to visit Israel, did not
visit Jerusalem's Old City as previously scheduled. The decision
was taken after a dispute arose in which the Palestinians took
issue with Israel's demand that Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert
accompany Clinton on his visit to the Old City.
Clinton and Assad Renew January Acquaintance
By Ron Pemstein (Jerusalem)
President Clinton has met Syrian and Israeli leaders on his Mideast
tour and says advances have been made on substantive issues
blocking an Israeli-Syrian peace treaty. The United States says it
will remain the principal mediator between two neighbors that
cannot speak directly to each other.
Negotiations between Israel and Syria mediated by the United States
have been moving in the right direction lately but not very
quickly. If the talks continue on the current pace, US officials
feared a peace treaty could not be agreed on before one or two
Thanks to Clinton's four hour stop in Damascus, a senior US
official says advances on substantive issues have been made that
might reduce this schedule to within the next four to six months.
Clinton says he cannot go into details about where the advances
were made without undermining his ability to be helpful as a
mediator. Clinton did tell the Israeli Knesset he believes
President Assad is serious.
"We have been urging President Assad to speak to you in a language
of peace that you can understand. Today, he began to do so. Of
course, it will take more than words, much more than words. Yet I
believe something is changing in Syria. Its leaders understand
that it is time to make peace. There will still be a good deal of
hard bargaining before a breakthrough. But they are serious about
However, Secretary of State Warren Christopher told reporters
substantial progress has been on more than one of the key issues
blocking the agreement, again without giving details. However, it
is known Assad went farther than ever before in describing what
type of peace he foresees with Israel in the event of Israel's full
withdrawal from the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.
That's an important issue for Israel that sees the Golan Heights
as vital to its security and does not want to commit to a full
withdrawal without a better picture of what Syria means by peace.
If there was progress on substance in Damascus, US officials say
there were backward steps on what they call public diplomacy, the
confidence building between people. Take terrorism. In private,
US officials maintain, Assad condemned attacks on innocent
civilians citing the bus bombing in Tel Aviv last week and the
shooting of Muslim worshipers by a Jewish extremist last February.
However, when it came time to face reporters, Assad said terrorism
was not discussed as a separate agenda item and insisted Syria
has never committed a terrorist act. Clinton did not let Assad's
comment pass without correction. "We cannot and we will not
support the killing of innocent civilians. And President Assad has
said repeatedly and said to me in our meeting today that he thought
that was wrong as well wherever it occurred whether in the bus
incident or in Hebron so we did discuss it in that context."
US officials say Syria remains on the State Department's list of
countries supporting terrorism for the original reason -- it
continues to offer safe haven to terrorist groups operating in
Another issue that relates to trust between Israel and Syria is
direct negotiations. Israel wants them, Syria does not, preferring
to deal with Israel through the United States. The Syrians say
direct negotiations should wait until the positions are closer
together. The United States does not plan to challenge that
Assad also sharply rejected suggestions that he visit Israel to try
to bridge the differences saying he believes the United States is
best placed to push the process forward. At the same time, US
officials point out Assad selected another authority to testify
about his seriousness in the search peace--Israeli Prime Minister
Assad: Israelis Should Not Doubt My Word
By Laurie Kassman (Damascus)
Clinton wants to see the Syrian-Israeli peace negotiations speeded
up. He says some progress was made in his talks with President
Hafez al-Assad but he wants to see more. "I do know we have made
some progress here and I expect to make some progress in Israel.
I believe, and I have told all the parties in the Middle East this,
that we should build on what has happened and try to accelerate
this peace process, not slow it down."
For his part, the Syrian president repeated his readiness for
normal relations with Israel in return for Israel's full withdrawal
from the Golan Heights and southern Lebanon.
Clinton said the statement goes beyond past remarks and should
When asked why Israel should trust him. President Assad said Israel
should not doubt his word. He spoke through an interpreter.
"There's nothing we have that proves our desire for peace except
our saying that we want peace. And anyone who does not believe
what we are saying, he would have no other way for peace. It
would be him who doesn't want peace."
The question was asked by a Jerusalem-based reporter, an unusual
occurrence here in a country still formally in a state of war
with Israel. The news conference was broadcast live both in Syria
and in Israel.
Assad dismissed a reporter's question about US accusations of
Syrian sponsorship of terrorism. He challenged the accusers to
provide proof. "Does anyone of you have anything that proves that
Syria has done a single terrorist act?"
The US State Department has listed Syria as a terrorist-sponsoring
nation since 1979. But, Clinton said the Syrian leader had
condemned recent terrorist acts in Israel and agrees that violence
must not be allowed to undermine the peace process.
Syrian Man-on-the-Street Will Accept Israeli Peace
By Laurie Kassman (Damascus)
A day after Jordan and Israel signed their historic peace treaty
ending nearly half a century of conflict and hostility, President
Bill Clinton traveled to Syria to nudge President Hafez al-Assad in
the same direction as his neighbor. The visit has raised Syrian
expectations peace is within its reach, too.
With renewed hopes Syrian-Israeli negotiations will move forward,
Syrians say they are ready for peace -- but not for friendship with
the country that has been their arch-enemy for decades.
Damascus University Professor Suheil Zakkar says real peace in the
region will come when Israel stops thinking of itself as a European
ghetto in the Middle East and becomes an integral part of the
But the 60-year-old history teacher says friendship with Israel
won't happen in his lifetime. "I personally would find it too
difficult to make normal relationship with any Israelis or I would
find it impossible. I can get rid of my shirt but I cannot get
rid of my skin. Really. I am going to accept peace but I will not
deal with any Israelis."
Eighteen-year-old medical student Rada feels the same way. "I bear
many grudges to the israelis. Maybe there will be peace but to
shake hands with the Israelis never."
In contrast, enterprising businessmen are anxiously waiting to
profit from a peacetime market and even envision doing business
Syria is holding out for the complete withdrawal of Israel from the
Golan Heights and from southern Lebanon. For Syrians and Lebanese,
the return of their land is the key to peace.
Twenty-five-year-old Mahmoud comes from the village of Shebaa in
southern Lebanon. He and his family were forced to leave, after
Israeli troops took control of the area as a self-declared
security zone. "My dream in this moment and from many years ago is
to be back in my country, my home, my land." (Arabic)
Yousef Jajati is a leader of Syria's dwindling Jewish community,
which numbers less than 300. He wants peace to bring Syrian Jews
home again. And, he also dreams of the day he can pray in
Jerusalem and return home to Syria without a problem.
Rabin on the Golan
(By permission of Middle East Digest)
"Words are not enough about the Golan Heights. We must put those
words into action...Withdrawal from the Golan Heights is
unthinkable, even in times of peace. Anyone considering withdrawal
from the Golan Heights would be abandoning Israel's security. Let
us invest, all of us together, in order to fulfill our obligations
to the Golan Heights. And you, the residents--those of you who made
the Golan Heights what it is--have all my respect."
Yitzhak Rabin, June 10, 1992
"The Golan is last on my list of priorities."
Yitzhak Rabin, September 12, 1994
(All material on these web pages is © 2001-2012
by Electronic World Communications, Inc.)