President Bush praised U.S. talks with the Palestine Liberation Organization in an interview published Friday and said he would try to persuade Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that "something good might come out of this kind of discussion."
"I will tell him that the talks that we are having with the PLO representatives there in Tunisia are good things, and we'll tell him why I think they are good things," Bush told the Washington Times. Bush is scheduled to meet with Shamir, who refuses to speak with PLO representatives, in Washington on April 6.Asked whether he would urge Shamir to join the talks with the PLO, Bush told the newspaper, "I don't know what I'll say to him about that. But I'll say to him that we have got to move the peace process forward. We may, by then, be ready with some specific ideas."
Shamir, in an interview broadcast Friday on NBC's "Today" program, reiterated his stand against such talks with the PLO.
"It's not a question of talks," he said. "For us it's a question of life, a question of existence."
Shamir called for Palestinians on the West Bank to forsake the idea of a separate state.
"I am convinced that the majority of the Palestinian Arabs will come to this conviction that they have to live in peace with us, and that the only way to live together is to negotiate, to talk in order to achieve some peaceful solutions. And the time will come for it," he said. "We are ready."
But former Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman, now the country's science minister, said on ABC's "Good Morning America" he is convinced "that we have to talk to (PLO Chairman Yasser) Arafat."
Reminded that the Israeli electorate has rejected such negotiations, Weizman said that with "correct leadership" and "an honest way of putting an issue, you can change the opinions of the electorate."
Former President Carter, who negotiated the Camp David agreement 10 years ago between Israel and Egypt, said on the ABC program that there should be negotiations with Arafat ultimately.
But, he added, "I think the first step will have to be direct talks between the Israelis and Palestinian leaders chosen in the West Bank and Gaza who have the full support and public endorsement of the PLO, including Arafat."
In Tunis Wednesday, U.S. and PLO representatives held their first meeting since Bush became president.
Arafat said Thursday that the 4 1/2-hour meeting between U.S. Ambassador Robert H. Pelletreau and Yasser Abed-Rabbo of the PLO executive committee was positive. "There is a mutual interest and intention to lead this dialogue to success," Arafat said.
The Tunis meeting was the second formal meeting since talks began in December, after Arafat publicly renounced terrorism and recognized Israel's right to exist.