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Letter from Secretary of State Shultz to Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Peres

(December 15, 1988)

The letter was an attempt to explain to Israel the reasons that led the U.S. to enter into a dialogue with the PLO and to stress the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel. Secretary Shultz argued that finally Arafat used a clear-cut language on the right of Israel to exist and on terrorism. The U.S. was motivated by the desire to play an active role in the peace process. Text:

Dear Shimon,

Today, in a press conference in Geneva, Yasser Arafat made a statement in which he unconditionally accepted UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, clearly recognized Israel's right to exist, and renounced terrorism. I have studied the text of Arafat's remarks carefully, and have concluded that this satisfies longstanding American conditions for opening a substantive dialogue. We therefore plan to act as we have often said we would, most recently in the President's statement of December 8, by entering into a substantive dialogue with the PLO. I will be issuing a public statement to this effect, shortly after finalizing this letter. The initial U.S. contact with the PLO will be carried out by the American ambassador in Tunis.

I know how sensitive an issue this is for you and the people of Israel. Our decision was not taken lightly. For 13 years, every American administration has remained committed to the agreement we made with the Israeli government concerning contacts with the PLO. During this period, we insisted upon a change in the PLO's position, as represented in a clear and unambiguous statement on the critical issues of Israel's right to exist, on 242/338 and on terrorism. In the past few weeks, we maintained a firm stand on these conditions, refusing to be drawn into accepting less than what we have insisted upon since 1975. Today, such a statement was issued by Mr. Arafat.

The dialogue about to be launched is not an end in itself. It must focus on the core issue of negotiations to end the Arab-Israel conflict. We will also be watching closely the PLO's performance of the obligations it has undertaken as a result of its renunciation of terrorism.

We also intend to make clear to the PLO that nothing can upset or adversely affect our relationship with Israel. What motivates us to play an active role in the peace process is the desire to see a safe and strong Israel, living in peace with its neighbours. Nothing will shake the foundation of our relationship.

We will, of course, remain in closest contact, and will keep you full informed of what transpires in our talk with the PLO. We enter this dialogue with our eyes

open and our guard up. With warm regards,

Sincerely, George P. Shultz

Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs