Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, July 1989, Page 7

Words to Remember

Secretary of State James Baker's Speech to American Israel Public Affairs Committee Convention

"Continuation of the status quo (in the Middle East) will lead to increasing violence and worsening prospects for peace. We think now is the time to move toward a serious negotiating process to create the atmosphere for a renewed peace.

"Let the Arab world take concrete steps towards accommodation with Israel, not in place of the peace process but as a catalyst for it. And so we would say: End the economic boycott; stop the challenges to Israel's standing in international organizations; repudiate the odious line that 'Zionism is racism.'

"For Israel, now is the time to lay aside, once and for all, the unrealistic vision of a Greater Israel. Israeli interests in the West Bank and Gaza, security and otherwise, can be accommodated in a settlement based on UN Resolution 242. Foreswear annexation; stop settlement activity; allow schools to reopen; reach out to the Palestinians as neighbors who deserve political rights.

"For Palestinians, now is the time to speak with one voice for peace: Renounce the policy of phases in all languages, not just those addressed to the West; practice constructive diplomacy, not attempts' to distort international organizations, such as the World Health Organization; amend the [Palestine National] covenant; translate the dialogue of violence in the intifada into a dialogue of politics and diplomacy. Violence will not work. Reach out to Israelis and convince them of your peaceful intentions. You have the most to gain from doing so, and no one else can or will do it for you. Finally, understand that no one is going to deliver Israel for you."

(from May 22, 1989 speech)

REACTIONS

Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir (May 23, 1989):

"We cannot accept what he [Baker] said. . about a Greater Israel or the settlement problem. I don't think that these issues on which we differ have anything to do with our proposed peace initiative ... I don't think it was useful to raise those issues. It was useless."

Israeli Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin (May 23, 1989):

"The problem today is to start the political process, and the only way to do that is to leave open the ultimate solution ... We have to work in phases and at this phase the less we deal with the principles of a permanent solution the better ... Any attempt to tackle it now will lead to a stalemate, if not explosion."

Israeli Ambassador to the US Moshe Arad (May 24, 1989):

"We definitely didn't think that this is helpful at this moment to make such statements because it suggests that the Israeli government is pursuing a policy of annexation ... When we talk about a long-term settlement, [this] is exactly the future settlement of these territories:'

Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban (May 30, 1989):

"It was a useful speech because it expressed the truth about American policy It is useful to tell the truth. It is useful to be frank. It is not useful to flatter. It is not useful to disseminate illusions. That is American policy, that's what the American people believe."

PLO spokesman Ahmed Abdel Rahman (May23, 1989):

"It was a big step forward for Mr. Baker to say these things to the Israelis and the AIPAC organization ... Baker did not tell the American people that the PLO accepts a two-state solution, he did not say that Arafat recognizes Israel's right to exist."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (May25, 1989):

"It's a balanced statement, even if we have certain reservations ... American policy at present is better than at any other time in the past."

Representative Mel Levine (D-CA) (May 23, 1989):

"I am concerned by Secretary Baker's repeated use of public diplomacy His speech was technically balanced, but the message it sent was that Israel has to move and the Arabs don't."

Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations Seymour D. Reich, (May23, 1989):

"The secretary delivered what he intended to be a balanced speech, but I think the coldness of the speech and the lack of proper context created unnecessary tensions among this community here and in Israel. It will not encourage those who seek peace in Israel to go forward."

Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater New York Michael Miller (Quoted in Washington Jewish Week, May 25, 1989):

"He [Baker] showed he can criticize the Arabs and Israel together, without much distinction. It's very ominous. In the balance is an imbalance... His use of 'Greater Israel'-What are we talking about here, Meir Kahane?"

Editor of Tikkun magazine Michael Lerner (May 23, 1989):

"Baker's speech was a long-awaited moment of political courage. For him to go to AIPAC and to speak plainly is a real act of friendship to the Jewish people. Those of us who want Israel to remain strong believe it is imperative that we communicate to Israel that it must change its policies immediately or face a further erosion of American support."

Rita Hauser, Jewish leader involved in creating a dialogue between the US and the PLO(May 23, 1989):

"I thought it was extraordinary in its tone and approach. It shows a seriousness on the part of the United States to play the role of an honest broker."

Scholar Helena Cobban (New York Times, May 25, 1989):

"Secretary of State James Baker's speech ... may have angered Israel's prime minister and some, though not all, American Jewish leaders. But it did advance American national interests ... The speech brought out into a highly visible public forum one of the dirty little secrets in the US-Israel relationship: The US fundamentally disagrees with Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir over the need for Israel to withdraw from the lands occupied in 1967."

Columnist A.M. Rosenthal (New York Times, May 26, 1989):

"Already the Israel-haters are slavering at the thought that the speech means the United States is getting ready to dump Israel, or cut her off from economic and military support, unless she follows Washington instructions ... A fundamental element of the Baker approach—that Israel should give up the West Bank as part of an understanding that the Arab states accept her in the Middle East club—is still more of a wistful concept than a specific proposal."

Columnist Tom Wicker (New York Times, May 26, 1989):

"Mr. Baker was 'evenhanded' in his approach, urging certain steps for peace on both Israel and the Palestinians ... Such 'evenhandedness' has not been popular with Israeli leaders. . . Israeli governments, believing themselves in the right on questions concerning their Arab neighbors and the Palestinians, do not want merely to be treated equally. They think they deserve the kind of preference they usually have received from US administrations, notably Ronald Reagan's."

New York Times Editorial (May 24, 1989):

"The secretary's judgment is right; neither side can proceed without a sense of the future. And now that Mr. Baker has prefigured that future, it's up to the Bush administration to focus Arab and Israeli energies on the essential idea of building peace 'from the ground up,' starting with negotiations on elections."

Columnist Stephen S. Rosenfeld (Washington Post, May 27, 1989)

"Baker, while denying that the United States intends to dictate a solution, has seized on what he accurately calls 'the reasonable middle ground.' It offers Israel 'ample protection' for its security and the Palestinians 'ample scope' for their political rights."

Columnist Richard Cohen (Washington Post, May 25, 1989):

"Baker's text was ... a reiteration of US policy But the American-Jewish community has become so accustomed to reality avoidance and so pampered by previous administrations (not to mention Congress) that it is easily shocked by a speech lacking the usual rococo affirmations about how wonderful Israel is... Israel should get out of the West Bank and Gaza and reach a political accommodation with the Palestinians. . . Retaining the West Bank (Gaza is not the issue) means either having to expel about 700,000 Palestinians or having to continue oppressive measures. Both options represent a tragedy, a corruption of Israel's character."

Journalist Thomas Friedman (New York Times, May 28, 1989)

"In the cycles of Middle East diplomacy, last week's speech by Secretary of State James A. Baker was a turning point. It signaled the end of a honeymoon era in American-Israel relations that existed for the last four years under the Reagan administration and a return to a more evenhanded approach to the Middle East."

 

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