Venom and Anger: Excerpts From Day 3 of the Talks

‘We came here out of goodwill’

--Yitzhak Shamir, Israeli prime minister

For two days . . . we have heard much criticism and many charges. We can respond to each and every charge, to every misrepresentation of history and fact--and there were quite a few--and we can refute every contention. We, too, can cite morality, justice and international legality in our favor.

But is this what we have come here for?


We came here out of goodwill, hoping there might be a change, a turn for the better and content that would lead us to a new and more promising chapter. And we have not given up that hope.

Syria’s representative wants us and the world to believe that his country is a model of freedom and protection of human rights, including those of the Jews. Such a statement stretches incredulity to infinite proportions.

To this day, Syria is the home of a host of terrorist organizations that spread violence and death to all kinds of innocent targets, including civil aviation, and women and children of many nations. I could go on and recite a litany of facts that demonstrate the extent to which Syria merits the dubious honor of being one of the most oppressive, tyrannical regimes in the world. But this is not what we have come here for.

To the Lebanese people, our neighbors to the north, we send a message of sympathy and understanding. They are suffering under the yoke of Syrian occupation and oppression and are denied even the capacity to cry out in protest. We bear no ill-will to the courageous and suffering Lebanese, and we join them in the hope that they will soon regain their independence and freedom. We have no designs on Lebanese territory, and in the context of a peace treaty and the removal of the Syrian presence, we can restore stability and security on the borders between our two countries.


In many respects, we have a situation of de facto nonbelligerency with the kingdom of Jordan. We sincerely believe that a peace treaty with Jordan is achievable.

. . . Yesterday, I extended an invitation to come to Israel for the first round of peace negotiations and begin a sincere exchange that would lead to agreement. We hope you will accept our invitation.

‘Israel can have either land or peace but it cannot have both.’

--Kamel abu Jaber, Jordanian foreign minister

It appears as if time stood still as far as Israel is concerned.

What we heard . . . was in fact a further retreat into the old ideological molds, clearly designed to distract, worse, derail the process.

The core of the present Arab-Israeli conflict revolves around the occupied territories. To say that “the issue is not territory” is a gross reduction of the truth. . . . The time has come for Israel to recognize the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people on their own territory, their ancestral homeland.

Let me say it again, we are not seeking peace at any price. Far from it. We are seeking justice, fairness and legality.


Israel can have either land or peace but it cannot have both. It can have the true security that comes from a negotiated political solution. Force alone will never provide security.

It may be very well that Israel wants peace, but it wants the Arabs alone to pay the price.

‘He (Shamir) killed peace mediators and then he talks of Syria and Lebanon and terrorism.’

--Farouk Shareh, Syrian foreign minister

I really had wanted to focus on peace for which we had come. Before that, I shall just show you if I may a photograph, an old photograph of Mr. Shamir, at the age of 32.

The information was widely distributed in Europe at the time. . . . Why was this picture distributed? Because he was wanted. He himself recognized that he was a terrorist, that he practiced terrorism, and that he helped in the assassination of Count Bernadotte, the U.N. mediator in Palestine. . . . He killed peace mediators and then he talks of Syria and Lebanon and terrorism.

He (Shamir) said the war in 1967 was a defensive war. . . . Regardless of who initiated the war in 1967, the (U.N.) resolution is there. . . . It states that it is inadmissible to acquire the territory of others by force.

‘Approach us as equals within a two-state solution’


--Haidar Abdel-Shafi, Palestinian delegate

The Israeli statement (was) imprisoned in its own anachronistic and antagonistic rhetoric, incapable of responding to the tone and implications of the occasion.

We further find it incomprehensible how Israel can violate with impunity the integrity of the process and the consensus of the participants.

We came here to realize its (Security Council Resolution 242’s) implementation, not to indulge in exegesis or semantics or to be party to its negation or extraction from the peace agenda.

The same terms articulated in 242 apply to East Jerusalem, which is not only occupied territory but also a universal symbol and a repository of cultural creativity, spiritual enrichment and religious tolerance.

The gates of Jerusalem must be open. Palestinian Jerusalem is the vehicle of our self-definition and the affirmation of our uninterrupted existence on our land. . . . The issue is land, and what is at stake here is the survival of the Palestinian people on what is left of our olive groves and orchards, our terraced hills and peaceful valleys, our ancestral homes, villages . . .

International legitimacy demands the restoration of the illegally occupied Arab and Palestinian lands to their rightful owners. Israel must recognize the concept of limits--political, legal, moral and territorial--and must decide to join the community of nations by accepting the terms of international law and the will of the international community. No amount of circumlocution or self-deception can alter that fact.

We, the people of Palestine, hereby offer the Israelis an alternative path to peace and security: Abandon mutual fear and mistrust, approach us as equals within a two-state solution, and let us work for the development and prosperity of our region based on mutual benefit and well-being.

. . . The Palestinians are a people with legitimate national rights. We are not “the inhabitants of territories” or an accident of history or an obstacle to Israel’s expansionist plans, or an abstract demographic problem. You may wish to close your eyes to this fact, Mr. Shamir, but we are here in the sight of the world, before your very eyes, and we shall not be denied.

‘Are we on the threshold of a new era in the Middle East?’

--Amir Moussa, Egyptian foreign minister

As I looked across this . . . conference table and listened to the different views of the parties, I asked myself, are we on the threshold of a new era in the Middle East, as indeed we should be?

The answer is in the affirmative, for whatever the positions of one party or the other, we cannot and we should not continue arguing, trading accusations and recrimination. Old arguments and archaic strategies should be left at the wayside the moment we leave this conference.

. . . I address Israel mainly. Speeches such as the one we heard today do not help the process of peace. This is not the language of peace. We came to negotiate. We came to talk . . . about the future, and we have a responsibility to do everything possible to make this endeavor succeed.

Arab nations have come here to achieve peace with Israel. Her status is not questioned, nor in doubt. . . .

Misrepresentation of facts must stop. Wild dreams of expansion must come to an end. Illegal acts, such as building settlements, should be frozen. More than anything else, and as never before, this conference places an awesome responsibility on the parties to demonstrate that peace has a chance and that coming here was not in vain.

‘One most convincing demonstration . . . would be to stop the settlement activity’

--Boris D. Pankin, Soviet foreign minister

These (bilateral) negotiations need gestures from both sides as witness to their good intentions, just as a man who has run a long way needs air to fill his lungs.

Undoubtedly one most convincing demonstration of readiness for serious dialogue would be to stop the settlement activity in the occupied territories. I think that were this to happen, the Arab countries could find the appropriate response.

The return of those lands to their legitimate owners will transform inter-state borders into bridges of communication.

‘The unwillingness of the parties to take confidence-building steps has been disappointing.’

--James A. Baker III, U.S. secretary of state

This conference demonstrates vividly the end of the Cold War and the flowering of United States-Soviet partnership in resolving regional conflicts. Where we once competed, we now cooperate. Where there was once polarization, there is now coordination. What was once unthinkable--the United States and Soviet Union co-sponsoring a process of peace in the Middle East--became a reality this week.

The United States is willing to be a catalytic force, an energizing force, and a driving force in the negotiating process.

The United States is and will be an honest broker. We have our own positions and views on the peace process, and we will not forgo our right to state those views. But, as an honest broker, with experience--successful experience--in Middle East negotiations, we also know that our critical contribution will often be to exert quiet, behind-the-scenes influence and persuasion.

We will do our part. But we cannot do your part, as well. The United States and the Soviet Union will provide encouragement, advice, recommendations, proposals, and views to help the peace process.

None of this . . . will relieve you--the parties--of the obligation of making peace. Because if you don’t do it, we certainly can’t. . . .

The invitation sent to the parties . . . specified that direct bilateral negotiations would begin four days after the opening of the conference. But there was never agreement regarding the location for those bilateral negotiations.

From the perspective of co-sponsors, and indeed from the perspective probably of most of the rest of the world, it would be very difficult to understand how a party could now refuse to attend bilateral negotiations simply because of a disagreement over the site of those negotiations.

I want to be perfectly honest. . . . The unwillingness of the parties to take confidence-building steps has been disappointing.