STAFF: Good afternoon. And welcome again to our press center to our daily press conference. With us today is Zalman Shoval, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. As usual, an opening statement, questions and answers to follow.

Ambassador Shoval, please.

AMB. SHOVAL: Thank you very much.

I would like to inform you that our delegation will remain in Washington till tomorrow noon. We are going to have further meetings with the Jordanian-Palestinian joint delegation, as well as with the separate tracks. And we hope that we shall make progress in those remaining meetings which we have scheduled.

And as you probably know, that was the original schedule. Before coming here to this round of talks, we announced that we would stay here for two weeks, and the two weeks are actually over today actually, the day before yesterday, I would say. And but we did extend for a further day just in order to conclude that part of the program which is on the table now.

We were, I would say, under some pressure not outside pressure, but, perhaps, pressure within ourselves to break off the negotiations as a result of the vicious attacks on civilians in Israel. And there was another attack just a few minutes ago on an ambulance near Nablus. And you know about the incident yesterday in which six civilians, including two children, were injured. One of the children is the same boy who had been injured two weeks ago in a different incident. However, we thought that it would not be appropriate in spite of those feelings of revulsion which we had. We decided to go on with the talks.

We were invited this morning to a meeting with Secretary of State Baker. The meeting lasted for about half an hour. It was similar to the meeting which we had in Madrid at the end of the Madrid round of talks. He was interested, obviously, how things were going. We told him some of our views about questions like venue, and so on. We heard his views. And I would say that was more of less the gist of the meeting.

Let me say once again, with regard to the violence I don’t know if you noticed that there was an increase of violence ahead of Madrid, and there is an increase of violence ahead of Washington. And the Palestinians will have to decide, once and for all and their spokesmen and representatives whether they come here as angels of peace or as angels of death. You can’t do both things at the same time. And I think that there’s no way that we or the Americans or the rest of the world will understand how you can negotiate peace if you are genuine about it and at the same time condone violence and, perhaps, more than condone. Who knows?

I would like briefly to reiterate another point. I understand Ms. Ashrawi, Dr. Ashrawi, spoke again today about the loan guarantees, and she said, I quote, "Foreign aid has to comply with US policy. The US won’t finance settlements," end of quotation. Is she out for Margaret Tutwiler’s job? (Laughter.) Is she giving statements what the United States should do or should not do? She must be pretty desperate.

I would also like to say that we have heard statements of the Palestinian spokesperson about, here they came in good faith, trying to make us forget why we waited for so many days till they came here and so many hours till we got over the completely unnecessary procedural squabbles. And she said, while we were finally in the meeting room, the Israelis didn’t want to talk about substance; we, the Palestinians, brought up an agenda.

Well, I didn’t see Ms. Ashrawi in the negotiating room. She is not a member of the delegation. So, I don’t know where she got that information. Israel, from the beginning of this round of talks with the Palestinians, put on the table an agenda. They didn’t want to take that agenda for reasons of symbolism because it still had the headline, the caption, "Joint Jordanian-Palestinian Track" because we had composed that document before coming here, not over night. And we make concrete proposals in that agenda how to cope with the continuation of the negotiations.

So, I’m very sorry that, instead of negotiating, one resorts to propaganda via the media. That is not helpful. That is not helpful if one really wants to achieve progress. Thank you very much.

Q Is the Israeli side ready to put forward its proposal for ISGA?

AMB. SHOVAL: Yes. As a matter of fact, as I said, we came here with concrete proposals. We read these we submitted it to them, not detailed proposals, but the agenda. The agenda relates, of course, to the substance later on. I understand the Palestinians want to call it now not ISGA, not ISGA, but PISGA, Palestinian Interim Self-Government Arrangements. And I asked whether that PISGA meant Permanent Israeli Sovereign Government Arrangements, but they did not buy that.

Yes, we definitely want to proceed as quickly as possible, as we did at the last round, at the previous round of talks here in Washington. We tried to debate and to discuss agenda from the first moment on, and it is they who resorted, if you remember, to the debate about procedures, about splitting the tracks and so on and so forth.

Q But you’re not prepared to give them that proposal in detail now.

AMB. SHOVAL: The agenda? Yes. We are we have submitted it, and the agenda obviously, as I have said often before, does not refer to lunch breaks but it refers to the topics which will be on the table with regard to the self-governing authority.

Q Mr. Ambassador, when you say agenda, is this the agenda that you proposed, I guess it was, either yesterday or the day before, which they then said the Palestinians and Jordanians said it was unacceptable because there was not a separate one for each track?


Q Or is there a new agenda? If there is not a new agenda, don’t you have a new impasse, in some sort?

AMB. SHOVAL: No. Well, as I said before, they rejected that because it had the joint heading of "Jordan-Palestinian." So, okay, I mean, we don’t make a big issue out of that. We retyped that and separated the pages, and we are going to hand them this newly-printed agenda at our next meeting. But in substance, in content, it includes everything that we submitted to them on day one of our meetings.

Q You’re not worried that the tone of your exchanges in public has become very rancorous and more bitter with each day that has passed. I mean, you’ve just given us an opening statement in which you’ve publicly ridiculed Dr. Ashrawi. She, no doubt, will pay you back in kind, and so it gets on. Isn’t there a need to tone down the rhetoric, to get on to the more kind of


Q civilized level of dialogue?

AMB. SHOVAL: Yes, definitely; but, you know, it needs not just two to tango but also two to tone down. We have said all along, and I think we have adopted that tone, we don’t want to engage in recriminations, we don’t want to engage in propaganda warfare, unless it becomes clear that the other side is not serious about the negotiations. We are very serious about these negotiations. At one of the meetings, not with the Palestinians, one of the gentlemen across the table said, "But Israel is very strong and we are very weak." I am not denying that Israel is very strong, but we come here to negotiate peace because we are strong, not in spite of the fact. So definitely we would like to tone down and I hope that if these negotiations will go on, the media will be less interested in time and there’s a better chance, as I said already in Madrid, those of you who remember, the farther away from the limelight it is the better the chances for progress are.

Q Mr. Ambassador, could you give us any idea what sort of suggestions or comments Secretary Baker made to you? Is the US (off mike)?

AMB. SHOVAL: Definitely the United States is not going to intervene and I must say that the policy adopted by the United States of non intervention has proved itself correct. It was because of that policy that we did come with the Jordanian and Palestinian components of the joint delegation to an agreement and I believe that policy will continue. But without of course divulging anything from a closed meeting, let me say that we were reinforced or strengthened in our attitude that these peace negotiations must go on without preconditions of any sort, and saying for instance that the matter of settlements has to be decided on as a precondition for continuing the peace talks is not only not acceptable to us, it’s not acceptable to the United States either.

Q Dr. Ashrawi said that the Palestinians asked to start with some negotiations about the settlements and the Israeli refused. Are we supposed to understand that at this stage of the discussion there are major settlements are not negotiable? What is (sic) the Israeli think about the Palestinians demand that as long as settlements go on there is nothing to discuss?

AMB. SHOVAL: The situation is very clear. According to the terms of reference of this peace process, any territorial matters will come up within after the third year with the beginning of the third year, not earlier, and obviously according to our interpretation the matter of settlements is not the matter of settlements, it’s the matter of the territories, the future of the territories. This is not something which is going to be negotiated now. We are negotiating one thing only with the Palestinians, interim self government arrangements. With the Arab states we are discussing obviously peace treaties. But I want to go a little bit beyond that, and again I don’t want to resort to any sort of language which would offend the representative of Reuters.

The Palestinians have not said "We demand to negotiate the settlements." They said, "This is a precondition for continuing the negotiations." I do hope that they have come off their high horse in that respect, because this is not part of the terms of reference. This is not part of the understanding of the Americans. And it is certainly not acceptable to us. If they want to go ahead, we want to go ahead.

Q Joe Albright from the Cox Newspapers. Dr. Ashrawi talked in some detail about their proposal for an interim self-government arrangement. They said she said that in their proposal, the authority would cover all the occupied territories, including East Jerusalem, and it would have jurisdiction over land, people, as well as natural resources. What is your government’s response to that proposal?

AMB. SHOVAL: As Dr. Ashrawi said today, and she’s perfectly correct in that they submitted to us yesterday four documents, and I think Ambassador Rubinstein must have talked about that, perhaps, in one of his briefings. I don’t want to go into all the details.

One of these documents were proposals and they are certainly legitimate to propose to make these proposals, and I don’t say that we accept them. Obviously, we don’t accept many of the points in their I won’t detail I won’t go into detail as they don’t accept, probably, many of our points. But from the point of view of a negotiating procedure, that is acceptable to us. The other documents were less commendable.

Q But what about the proposals that I mentioned jurisdiction over land, resources, and people, and also the question of whether it should have jurisdiction over East Jerusalem?

AMB. SHOVAL: This is what this is these are some of the points which will be negotiated, of course, once we reach the table. They will come up with their proposals, we will come up with our proposals. We would have liked that we leave the rhetoric aside, and we leave all these slogans and buzzwords aside and come down to the nitty gritty, which is acceptable.

Q Can you enumerate the points, and tell us a little bit of the substance the points in your agenda the agenda reprinted, and the Palestinians?

AMB. SHOVAL: No, I cannot even for reasons of politeness as we have reprinted them. If we are going to submit it to them today, I would not like to preempt that by talking to the media, but let me say in a very general fashion that our proposals pertain, I would say, to most areas and most domains which are the usual domains in any people, in any country being administrated or administrating themselves, excepting, of course, certain areas where we are going to keep a special position with regard to security, foreign affairs, and so on and so forth. But I will not enumerate in detail the proposals.

Q Mr. Ambassador, earlier Dr. Hanan Ashrawi in her press conference said that in fact the issue of settlements was discussed yesterday. She said that when the Palestinians brought it up yesterday, the Israeli response was that Israel owned the land in the occupied territories and therefore will continue with settlements. You were there. Is that a correct account? Was that said?

AMB. SHOVAL: What I don’t want to make a comment or commentary on Dr. Ashrawi. The matter of settlements was brought up by the other side. I don’t want to enumerate all the points. And we responded to them that this is not a matter which is going to be negotiated in this part of the peace process. And the Chairman of the Palestinian delegation delegation of the Palestinian track said that that was a prerequisite, and we asked what do you mean by prerequisite? Is this a precondition? And he said, yes, that was a precondition for continuing the negotiations, and of course, we must we had to respond to him first of all this whole process is about unconditional negotiations and our point of view is very clear about that and we just reiterated it.

Q Sir, do you deny that you actually said that the land belongs to Israel and therefore Israel will continue freely with settlements?

AMB. SHOVAL: I don’t think that any of us said the land belongs to Israel. We probably did refer to the question of public land.

Q Mr. Ambassador, are you is your departure tomorrow now firm or is it possible that if things are happening that it could slip a little bit more? And secondly, in your meetings tomorrow you mentioned meeting with the Jordanian and Palestinian delegation. Are you also meeting with the Syrians and the Lebanese tomorrow?

AMB. SHOVAL: As of this moment, there have been no meetings scheduled with the Syrians and the Lebanese, but if they will request a meeting I’m sure we’ll have a meeting with them.

Q And the part about your departure?

AMB. SHOVAL: It is firm, yes. There’s just so much time we can spend here.

Q Mr. Ambassador, can you elaborate on a on a document that the Palestinians handed to you I think it was last night declaring that the representative of the Palestinian people is the PLO? And can you elaborate on the other track, the Jordanian track, [about] which Ambassador Rubinstein spoke in very positive terms today?

AMB. SHOVAL: Well, I don’t want to go into too much detail of the four documents except the details which I gave. I would say that at least two of these documents were not helpful to promote fruitful negotiations, but never mind. I fully concur with what Ambassador Rubinstein said. I think the meetings with the Jordanian track were very warm, fruitful and positive and I would say that if there would be no outside constraints, we could easily approach the moment when we can sign a peace treaty of peace with Jordan.

Q Could you comment on the two right-wing leaders

AMB. SHOVAL: No, I cannot. (Laughs.) I won’t. This is internal Israeli politics. I’m out of it temporarily, but out of it.

Q When you mentioned about the terrorists and you can’t have terrorism and peace talks at the same time. But really, those terrorists, they’re really not connected with the peace talks. They want to disrupt those peace talks, right? So is it really correct to say they’re, you know, one group of Palestinians? Isn’t one really trying to sabotage the other?

AMB. SHOVAL: Well, there are two interesting questions or answers to that. First of all, according to our information, most acts of violence in the territories in the last few weeks were committed by Fatah, namely the organization directly connected with Yassir Arafat. So you cannot speak about extremists which have no connection, and so on and so forth. And perhaps they have decided to embark on a strategy of on the one hand, negotiating, on the other hand terrorizing us in order, in their belief, to promote perhaps Israeli concessions or anything like that. It is similar to the technique employed at the time by the Viet Cong. It won’t help them in this case.

With regard to the other question what was the other question? I don’t remember.

Q Well, the first one you didn’t want to answer about the right-wing, right? You don’t want to get into that.


Q But is it fair to say they’re all out of one mold?

AMB. SHOVAL: Well, yeah, no, the second part of the answer is really that. Okay. Let’s say and let’s hope I’m right they come to negotiate in good faith, but if they cannot control these violent elements, what security do we have after we reach an agreement? So that’s another worry for us.

Q Mr. Ambassador, can you tell me, please, whether you’re going to discuss today or tomorrow your next set of meetings and do you now have an idea when and where they will be or approximately when they will be?

AMB. SHOVAL: Yes, we are going to have probably tomorrow another meeting of the a general meeting, namely the joint Jordanian-Palestinian delegation, the joint two tracks, and we are definitely going to discuss as one of the topics the venue for the next meeting or meetings and hopefully we can arrive at an agreement. But I can’t tell you at this time whether we will arrive at an agreement or not. I just want to remind you that we have a binding Israeli cabinet decision about the venue, namely, that the meetings, that the negotiations must move to the vicinity, at least to the vicinity of the region if not to the region itself.

Q Mr. Ambassador, may I have a clarification, please, on the settlements position. Is it your position, based on what you said earlier, that Israel can and will unilaterally continue its settlement activity within the occupied territories without recourse to negotiations for at least another three years?

AMB. SHOVAL: Our position is and has been and will not change in that respect. As you know, we have never confiscated private Arab land and we would oppose that. The Israeli settlements, those which are there and those which will be built, will be built and have been built on public land or on government land. It is our view that first of all there can be no way that Jews, under any sort of settlement, will be legally or politically prohibited from living in any part of the country, just as 800,000 Arabs are living in Israel.

The second point is that after all this whole dispute this whole dispute, among other things, is about disputed land. They say it’s only theirs. We don’t go to such extremes as they do, but we say it’s also ours, which means that in the future Jews and Arabs will have to coexist in that part of the land. And we see absolutely no reasons why Jews should be prohibited from living there, from building there, just as we would not tell the Arabs there, "Stop building stop building houses, stop enlarging your settlements or your villages." That is what the dispute is about. If that weren’t so, we wouldn’t be sitting here.

Q But am I correct, sir, in saying that you will not negotiate on that point for another three years?

AMB. SHOVAL: That is correct. That is according to the precepts of this peace process, the way we interpret it.

Q Mr. Ambassador, you mentioned at the beginning that you are negotiating only one thing, ISGA. But forgive me for going back to that

AMB. SHOVAL: With the Palestinians.

Q With the Palestinians.


Q Correct. The Palestinians have presented a proposal under which they would have international (coughs) excuse me international supervision to take out 180 Palestinian delegates, during the elections Israeli troops should be withdrawn, and the self government would be in an interim basis for five years. What I want to ask you is, how do you characterize the proposal? Is it constructive? Is it objectionable? What, if any, in this proposal is (reliable ?)?

AMB. SHOVAL: Well, it is obviously how do you call it in English it’s a starting position, which they understand is not acceptable, will not be acceptable. But they are perfectly entitled to put that proposal on the table. You mentioned elections. We have not negated the possibility of elections. As a matter of fact, there are many people in the Israeli government who think that holding elections in the territories, whether through municipal elections or any other form, may be conducive. But this is something which will come up if we go deeper into the substance of the matter.

Thank you very much.