Jerusalem – August 30, 1994
FM Peres: We just completed our first working session with our friend and our colleague Amre Moussa, the Foreign Minister of Egypt.
We have had quite a heavy agenda before us. Most of the time was devoted to bilateral issues, how to promote the economic relations, how to add a cultural agenda. We were dealing with arms control, we were dealing with other aspects of political and economic relations. Also, upon the request of the Foreign Minister, we were dealing with the problems concerning the implementation of the Palestinian autonomy.
Then we also went through the schedule. It is two days, but a very short visit. Today the Foreign Minister will meet the head of the opposition. We will entertain a television interview. He will be our guest for dinner. Tomorrow morning, he will meet the Prime Minister, the President. He will meet the Council for Foreign Relations for lunch. He will go through Yad Vashem, and particularly in the Children’s Department. He will go to the Old City. We shall have in conclusion a press conference. So you can see the schedule is quite intense. And may I say the atmosphere is as friendly as it can be between two friendly countries.
FM Moussa: Thank you. I do not think I can add anything to what my friend and colleague has just mentioned.
The talks were long, were useful. We discussed the peace process on all tracks, in particular the Palestinian track. We have gone through the problems, the difficulties, the complaints of the Palestinians. I am in a position to say that understanding will have more place between the two sides the Palestinians and the Israelis as to the implementation of the accord between them. We have reason to believe, both of us, that the peace process generally is in very good shape. It could be better, of course. We will work together in order to give the peace process all the help we can give. And this applies to all tracks.
We also talked about the bilateral relations, and how to accelerate the pace of cooperation in several fields as much as possible. The talks between us have also touched upon the question of arms control in the region, which is an issue of greater importance as we are endeavouring to establish conditions for peace and stability, which by necessity would render any arms race over armament, weapons of mass destruction unnecessary, uncalled for, and we are better off without them. We will continue our talks on that point, on the expert level and our level, as an important priority point on the agenda.
As for the program, the program is quite heavy with meetings, discussions, visits. I look forward to visit the Children’s Memorial tomorrow. You should know that we are very much sensitive to your sensitivities. The program is a good one, and I hope that this visit will add to the good cooperation that exists between Israel and Egypt and to further the relations between our two countries.
Q: On your visit to Yad Vashem, what made you change your plans in the end, and go to visit there?
FM Moussa: No, there is no change. The program, as usual, was subject to agreement between the two parties, the host and the guest. So we heard further suggestions on doing so many things. The time is short, but we have decided, as we have reported to you. It is not, in my opinion, a major point in the program. There were many suggestions that have been changed, as it happens in such occasions.
Q: Mr. Peres, could you explain why in your view it is so important that foreign visitors to Israel always visit Yad Vashem, and do you think that this tradition might one day change, so that a foreign leader who comes from a friendly state and decides he doesn’t want to include Yad Vashem wouldn’t go there?
FM Peres: We don’t force anybody, and we don’t make it a condition for the visit. But I think that occasionally, when you are coming to another country, you don’t know exactly the meaning, the symbolic value, the sensibility of the nation. And if I go to another country, I would ask surely my colleague, what is important, what is unimportant. It is not an imposition, it is a proposition. And I appreciate the fact that the Foreign Minister of Egypt said: ‘Let’s leave some points open when I shall come to the country. We shall discuss it. I want to hear your opinion. I want to have my judgment.’ And that is what happened. Nothing was imposed, nothing was conditioned.
Q: But what is the importance of it from Israel’s point of view? Could you explain why it is vital.
FM Peres: People outside of Israel may not be as sensitive as people inside Israel. For us, it is an unforgettable tragedy, and we feel we have to remember ourselves and let other people share those terrible memories with us. So it is really a matter of feelings and appreciations.
Q: Mr. Moussa, when will we see here your President Mr. Mubarak visiting Israel?
FM Moussa: The President has said on so many occasions, the latest was in Taba, that there is no problem for the President to visit here, but at the right moment.
Q: Mr. Peres, considering the incidents that have taken place in the last couple of weeks, like the terrorist attack in Ramle, the incident over the Pakistani ambassador, I would like to hear you assessment of where relations stand today between Israel and the Palestinian authority.
FM Peres: They remain unchanged. We have an agreement, and we, on our part, will respect the agreement in letter and spirit. We are determined to see the Palestinian Authority becoming a fact and becoming a success. We shall be as helpful as we may, and as it is needed.
We think that economic growth in the Gaza Strip is serving peace, is serving security. You cannot kill and you shouldn’t try to kill poverty with guns, but really by improving the situation.
We know that Mr. Arafat is the Chairman of the Palestinian Authority. We shall do whatever we can that he will be able to exercise his responsibilities, as it was agreed. Naturally, we expect the Palestinians to do likewise because an agreement is not just a piece of paper, but a relationship between two parties that both of them have to respect fully, remembering the purpose, taking into consideration the difficulties, and acting accordingly. So we didn’t change our mind. We are determined to implement what we promised.
The fact is that in a relatively short while, we have agreed on the early empowerment. Yesterday, for the first time in history, the Palestinian people became responsible for the education of their own children. They have never experienced it, and I am very proud that the parents will feel free to educate their children in the direction of peace and understanding in their own language.
We do believe that once the donors will meet on the 7th and the 8th of the next month in Paris, the money will become available for the implementation of the other four domains. We have had informal talks with the Europeans, the Americans, and others. I have reason to believe that the 30 or 40 million dollars that are necessary to finance the implementation of the early empowerment will become available, and we shall go ahead.
Q: Can you tell us about the Israeli idea about regional cooperation in the new future? And, concerning arms control issue, please tell us if Israel accepts or refuses to keep the area without arms, particularly nuclear weapons.
FM Peres: On the first, I think whoever is interested in having a real peace and a doable peace in the Middle East, must look at the economic side. I can say that we politicians are interested in political agreements, but the people are interested in the state of their own stomach, of their own food. They want to be sure that peace is really a way to increase the standard of living. I believe that peace creates the conditions for promoting the standard of living of all the people.
I know there are some rumors in the Arab world that Israel wants to dominate the economy of the Middle East. This is total nonsense for the following reasons: Modern economy is not based on domination but on competition. When you buy a Japanese television, it is not because the Japanese has a gun in his hands. You buy a television if it is good and cheap, otherwise you would not buy it. And nobody can stop competition. Secondly, the nature of Israeli markets are high-tech, which are more in the United States and Europe. We are interested in a Middle Eastern market, because that is the best way to increase the standard of living for all of us, particularly the Arab side. Because we believe as long as there will be poverty, poverty will be the food for fundamentalism, and fundamentalism will cause troubles to all governments, not just to the Israeli one.
Then again, I think that peace enables us to build a new economy, because we shall not spend so much money on the arms race. Hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars are being taken out from the mouths of the children, and being spent on the metals of tanks and planes. And we do not achieve much with it.
The issues, like irrigation and tourism, must be done regionally. The rivers are regional, not national. And tourists will visit different places, provided the region will be tranquil and hospitable and open and safe and secure. You know what an effort Egypt is now doing to promote tourism. And two or three terrorists can do a great deal of damage. So we really want to see our children yours and ours live in an European standard of living, not in an African, or any other.
I do believe in the depth of my heart that this is achievable. Nobody should pay for it and nobody should be superior or inferior. All of us have to cooperate fully, with the rules and regulations of a modern economy, which is an economy of markets, and not an economy of nations; an economy of needs, and not an economy of flags.
FM Moussa: It is an inherent right to develop the people and to work for a better future for everybody regardless of the actual situation or the situation at a certain given moment. This would take shape when peace reigns in the area, and on conditions, under conditions of peace, fairness and justice. And also that should take into consideration the interests of each and every economy, each and every government, in addition to the collective interests that would come up at a later stage, preferably soon.
FM Peres: On the second question, in our talks with our Egyptian friends, we are talking about two stages: the first obviously, is like a first floor in a building, and that is to bring peace and bring an end to the old skirmishes. The second floor, and on that we have agreed, is to build a Middle East free of nuclear weapons, actually free of non-conventional weapons, actually free of long-range missiles.
Clearly we cannot start building before we have the first floor. Because in order to introduce a free weapon zone in the Middle East, we have to have inspections, we have to be able to visit one another’s installations. We cannot have inspections if the doors are closed and the policy is the policy of belligerency. It is for the first time, in my judgment, that we have a plan for peace and a vision for the region. And as we are true on the first part, we shall be true on the second part. Because Israel must be very much on the giving side in order to attain peace.
FM Moussa: The new Middle East cannot be only built on economic cooperation or the economic components of relations, but also on security components, and on an area free from weapons of mass destruction, free from weapons that are unnecessary, and to reach a situation of balanced, fair deal on that point. A new Middle East needs a lot of conditions to be met political, security, arms control, economic, etc. We are still in the first stages, just taking the first steps.
Q: To accelerate cooperation in the region, do you expect to sign a peace treaty with Syria or Lebanon before the end of this year?
FM Peres: I cannot promise any given date, because only half of it depends on us. As far as we are concerned, we would like to see peace as soon as possible. As we made peace with Egypt the first to experience peace with us and we with them; as we made peace with the Palestinians and the Jordanians, we are ready to make peace with the Syrians.
What we suggest to the Syrians is to draw a lesson from the negotiations with Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. And the lesson is that peace negotiations must be conducted on two levels: an open, public level, so all people will see that the other people are really interested in peace; and then a quiet level, almost a secret level, where we can air out our differences with not too much sensations and bitterness.
FM Moussa: On this, I want to add that we, as Egypt, are trying to help our Israeli friends better read the Syrian calendar and the Syrian language in the peace process. We hope that this will help both of them reach an agreement as soon as possible, or at least achieve concrete progress preferably before the end of this year.
Q: Concerning the peace with Syria, do you accept, or do you agree to give Syria all the land in exchange of all the peace?
FM Peres: We can understand that this may be a Syrian demand, but there are other demands, and we think that all demands should be met on common ground and discussed simultaneously. I do not believe that you can negotiate by having Israel declare that thing that Syria would like her to declare and then negotiate. Negotiation is a give and take process, on equal footing they are equal, we are equal and dealing with all the issues on the agenda simultaneously.
FM Moussa: Let me be more direct. Peace with Syria would require by necessity full withdrawal from the Golan. It is all for all. Full peace for full withdrawal. There is no question about that. Let us not fool ourselves. There couldn’t be peace without full withdrawal from Syria.
Peres: Amre was saying about one lesson that one can draw from Egypt. May I suggest that the Syrians should learn the full lesson, which means: President Sadat came to visit Israel. He appeared before the Knesset. He used a very clear language. Then after a partial withdrawal, we established normalization, embassies. So if you want to deliver a message about the Egyptian experience, please do it in full complement.
FM Moussa: President Sadat always worked on the assumption that there would be full withdrawal from Sinai from the beginning.
FM Peres: Well, the assumption.
Q: [On Egypt’s role in the peace process and Israeli-Egyptian relations]
FM Peres: I think frankly that Egypt has helped us to enlarge and extend the peace process, we are trying to add both countries more meaning to the existing peace process. We do not want to stop at a point, we want to go ahead for the benefit of the people. And you know I have to mention for example, that upon the initiative of the President and the Foreign Minister of Egypt, a very important group of Egyptian industrialists are now visiting Israel, and we mean business. From what I have heard from them, and from others, it is going very well. We would not like to limit our relations just to the diplomatic track. We would like to enrich it with cultural, economic, and other dimensions, as it is accepted in normal political relations between friendly countries.
Q: When are you going to visit Chairman Arafat in Gaza?
FM Moussa: Soon.
Q: What is the reason for not including the visit on this trip?
FM Moussa: I am visiting Israel on this trip. I am not visiting the Palestinian Authority. That is a different thing.