Jerusalem, July 12, 1994
Q: (Hebrew) Yasser Arafat is going to be arriving in the Gaza Strip today to make his permanent home there. I assume that Israel views this positively.
FM PERES: (Hebrew) Certainly. Arafat is chairman of the Palestinian authority in Gaza and Jericho, and it is only natural that he should be there to take responsibility for daily life.
Q: What do you think is the most pressing problem he’s going to be facing now when he arrives for his permanent residence?
FM PERES: I think the most pressing problem is clearly the economic situation. The economy in Gaza and in the other parts of the territories needs a review and a special effort to introduce more life and more hope and more investment there, and I think the people in Gaza are entitled to expect the help of the international community. Israel, for her part, will try to participate in that effort in the ways that she is able to, and we shall do it gladly.
Q: Will Mr. Arafat’s arrival in the self-rule areas perhaps quicken the pace of the peace talks with the Palestinians?
FM PERES: I think all of us are interested to have an accelerated negotiation as much as we can, though time is needed to overcome many hurdles and many problems which are on the way of concluding a second chapter in our negotiations with the Palestinians. I do hope we shall find the proper solutions.
Q: Now that he will be permanently in the self-rule areas, perhaps you and he could meet here, as opposed to going out to Paris?
FM PERES: It is possible, but I am not sure if it is desirable, because negotiators want to distance themselves from the daily pressures and to have the space and the time and the discretion which is necessary to conduct the negotiations in a fruitful manner. So probably the negotiations will be continued in Cairo, where we found the place proper and the hospitality of the Egyptian government and the support of its President and members of the government rather positive.
Q: What results can we expect of your summit next week with Secretary Christopher and the Jordanian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister?
FM PERES: I think it’s an important opening. It’s not the first meeting that was done publicly. The first public meeting was done actually in Washington at the White House, under the chairmanship of President Clinton, with the participation of Prince Hassan, Mr. Christopher and myself. There we agreed to establish a three-party committee which continued to meet, and started to deal with the realities of the situation. I believe this will add a political flavor to the ongoing negotiations between our two countries and the three parties – two countries meaning Jordan and Israel, three parties meaning Jordan, Israel and the United States.
Q: What’s the significance of the fact that you will be going over to the Jordanian side?
FM PERES: There are two sides to the Jordan. Once it will be on our side, then it will be on their side. By changing sides, we shall get used to each other, hopefully, deeper and better.
Q: (Hebrew) Referring to the negotiations being resumed between Israel and Jordan, you said that with regard to Jerusalem, King Hussein may have religious but not political sensitivities.
FM PERES: (Hebrew) No, I said that the King suggested that there be a religious rather than a political dialogue on Jerusalem, and as far as I know, this is a unique approach in the Arab world.
Q: (Hebrew) What is Israel, which today controls the holy sites of the three religions in Jerusalem, prepared to do to advance this religious dialogue?
FM PERES: (Hebrew) If we reached an agreement with the Vatican on religious observance, I am confident that we can achieve the same with other religions. I have said that Jerusalem is closed politically and open religiously. Closed politically, meaning first that the city will remain united, as it is today; second, that it will remain the capital of Israel and only the capital of Israel – not two capitals; and third, that it will be under Israeli sovereignty. As for the possibilities, rights and needs of members of other faiths, we are open to suggestions on all sides. King Hussein has influence on the [Moslem] holy sites in Jerusalem through his influence on the Waqf, and we have no interest in detracting from his traditional influence. We do not wish to impair Jordan’s position.
Q: (Hebrew) Faisal Husseini promised not to engage in political activity in east Jerusalem. Only yesterday he met in the Orient House with the Canadian Minister of Housing. What is Israel going to do about this?
FM PERES: (Hebrew) We shall take all measures at our disposal, including legal measures, to ensure that matters not related to Jerusalem will not be conducted in Jerusalem. In other words, that the Orient House and east Jerusalem will not become another center for conducting the affairs of the autonomy in Gaza and Jericho. The administrative center of the autonomy can be in Gaza or in Jericho, certainly not in Jerusalem. At the same time, we promised not to infringe on the rights of the Arab residents of Jerusalem. We have no intention to deprive them of the rights they have. But there is a distinction between the right of those living in Jerusalem to run their lives, and the conduct of affairs outside Jerusalem, in the autonomy, to which we will not agree.
Q: (Hebrew) Two days ago Police Minister Shahal met with Faisal Husseini and clearly specified to him what Israel views as acceptable and unacceptable at meetings held in Jerusalem. One day later, he met with the Canadian minister. What else can the State of Israel do?
FM PERES: (Hebrew) The problem is not with whom he meets. The problem is what matters he discusses. It is unacceptable that autonomy issues be discussed in east Jerusalem, or in Jerusalem. These issues must be discussed in Gaza and Jericho. Meetings can be held anywhere, but the issues cannot be those which relate to the autonomy. I believe that Faisal Husseini will understand this. The State of Israel also has legal options as well. We want to deal with this issue in a civilized manner, but we are firm in our position that there must be a distinction between the autonomy and Jerusalem.