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George H.W. Bush Administration: News Conferences & Interviews on the Middle East/Israel


FEBRUARY 7, 1990

Soviet Role in the Middle East

Q. In the past, smaller countries used to play the U.S. versus the U.S.S.R. to get military and economic aid. Now that relations have improved with the U.S.S.R., and if we can anticipate continued improvement, what are the chances of the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. working together to solve some of the world's problems, such as the Middle East?

The President. Better, far better. And I think there's certain things that the Soviet Union could do that would facilitate their role as a catalyst for peace in the Middle East. One of them would be to assist more, through transportation -- direct flights -- for Soviet Jews wishing to leave the Soviet Union to go to Israel. I think that would send a sign that their interest in the Middle East is not just on the side of -- what heretofore has been the side of the more radical states in the area. So, they can do something like that. I'd like to see them normalize diplomatic relations with the State of Israel. I think that would be helpful. But I would think that as the Soviet Union evolves in a more democratic fashion that some of the concerns we've had in the past will be lessened.

So, I wouldn't say that at some point they wouldn't have a useful role. I've cited two areas where I think they can have a useful role in building credibility not just with the State of Israel but with other states as well. So, let's hope that they can do something.

FEBRUARY 12, 1990

Israeli Trade Minister Sharon's Resignation

Q. Sir, what is your visceral reaction to the resignation of Ariel Sharon and its effect on the peace process? And is this part of the pattern of the hard-liners losing out around the world?

The President. You know, I just heard about this, and I have to understand more about what went on there. But Mr. Shamir [Prime Minister] was the proponent of these talks, and if this clears the way for the talks to go forward, that would be in keeping with U.S. policy.

MARCH 3, 1990

Israeli-Palestinian Peace Talks

Q. Mr. President, there are reports out of Israel that [Prime Minister] Yitzhak Shamir is prepared to accept the U.S. formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Do you know anything about that, and if so, what shape will it take?

The President. Well, as you know, we have been working on this for 8 months. And Jim Baker and I were just talking about it, and I might say I commend him for staying in there, trying to be a catalyst to get this process going. So, we don't know any of the details of that; we just talked to our top officials here. But I hope it's true and I hope we can move forward. And if we do, I'll be glad to salute our Secretary of State and others, including Mr. Shamir, Mr. Mubarak [Egyptian President], for hanging in there, trying to get something moving toward peace.

Q. Has there been any movement, sir? If you don't know about his final commitment, has there been any movement toward acceptance of the U.S. formula?

The President. Well, there has, over the months. But just like the real world, you take two steps forward and take one step back. I hope we're going to go forward now.

Q. Would it be a bad signal right now with Israel trying to move toward talks with the Palestinians?

The President. Would what be a bad signal?

Q. Would the reduction of aid to Israel?

The President. I don't know that moving towards peace need be totally equated with aid. I mean, we're talking about a quest for peace that comes not just in Israel but in Egypt and everything else. So, I'm not tying those two subjects. But Israel has some big economic problems; they've got some big problems facing them that require a very generous apportionment of aid money, and they are getting that.

Resettlement of Soviet Jews

Q. To follow on the question of aid to Israel, Secretary Baker has suggested that we might tie aid to resettle the Soviet Jews to the Israelis' willingness to not settle the West Bank and to withdraw some of its settlements from the West Bank and Gaza. Then the State Department seemed to equivocate on that. What's your position?

The President. Well, I'm not sure there was equivocation. My position is that the foreign policy of the United States says we do not believe there should be new settlements in the West Bank or in East Jerusalem. And I will conduct that policy as if it's firm, which it is, and I will be shaped in whatever decisions we make to see whether people can comply with that policy. And that's our strongly held view. We think it's constructive to peace -- the peace process -- if Israel will follow that view. And so, there's divisions in Israel on this question, incidentally. Parties are divided on it. But this is the position of the United States, and I'm not going to change that position.

Q. So, will you link aid to resettle the Soviet Jews?

The President. I will just simply reiterate that the policy right here -- that we are not going to look favorably upon new settlements.

MARCH 13, 1990

Israeli Settlement in the Occupied Territories

Q. Mr. President, do you regret, the other day, raising the issue of settlements in East Jerusalem?

The President. No, I don't regret it. I think all the speculation and commentary of the last 10 days have blown things way out of proportion. What I was doing was reiterating United States policy. But let me say this: Right now in Israel, there's internal developments taking place in the political scene there, and I do not want to look in any way like we're trying to mingle into the internal affairs of Israel as they're going through this difficult political problem right now -- right now. So, I will answer no more on it -- well, try to clarify it because you have the followup. But it's so sensitive and it is so emotional that I just think any further speculation on this question would certainly not be useful, given what's happened just in the last few hours.

Q. Well, can I just ask then -- --

The President. Yes, you can ask.

Q. I'm not really clear why you raised the issue at all. Was there a particular reason? It's long been part of U.S. policy, but it hasn't been talked about a lot.

The President. Well, I understand that. That's why I will speculate no further on it. I think it is highly emotional. But I think any speculation and any commentary at this juncture -- a lot of developments since I made that comment -- would be counterproductive.

MARCH 22, 1990

Israeli Political Situation

Q. In another part of the world, do you think that your comments on east Jerusalem contributed to the collapse of the government there? And do you think, over the long haul, that's going to make the peace process more difficult or easier?

The President. No, I think a President, when he reiterates the standing policy of the United States Government, is doing the correct thing. I do not think it contributed to the fall of the government. These are highly complex, internal matters in the state of Israel. Who emerges, the Likud or Labor, is their problem, their right. And I will negotiate and deal openly with whoever, and talk freely and openly with whoever, emerges as the leader. But I don't believe it made a contribution, because I think if you look at the issues, both the domestic economy and the question of the peace talks, that those were the key issues in the campaign, because most people in Israel understood that I was simply reiterating a standing United States policy, one that I feel very strongly about.

APRIL 6, 1990

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, this is a followup to a question I asked you in December here at a meeting of editors -- [laughter] -- in which your answer was that the United States definitely was not going to try to pressure Israel to negotiate with the PLO. Some people seem to see signs now that this government is pressuring Israel by trying to establish linkages between aid and the Israeli Government's performance. And also, there is speculation that President Carter's meeting the day before yesterday with Mr. Arafat [Palestine Liberation Organization leader] and Mr. Mitterand [President of France], at which Mr. Carter was given an oriental rug by Mr. Arafat, that this had the blessing of your administration. I wonder if you would care to comment on these speculations.

The President. Let me -- and if I miss one, why, help me out. [Laughter] On President Carter, he was not acting with the blessing of, nor disapproval of, or anything else of the administration. He was acting in this meeting on his own. I knew nothing about it. And certainly the former President should be free to do his thing. That's exactly what he's doing.

In terms of pressuring Israel to meet with the PLO, that is not true, either. And there is no evidence to support the allegation that I sometimes hear that we are pressuring.

What I would like Israel to do is to meet under the Baker plan and discuss peace, and I'd like to see that happen. And nobody's tied any aid into that, and for that we get some criticism. I have no intention of tying aid into it, but I will keep reiterating that, my support for the Baker plan, the Shamir plan, the Mubarak plan, all of which are really basically one and the same thing. But one of Israel's fears was that they would be compelled to talk to the PLO, and we have made very clear to them in detailed negotiations that that was not the case.

APRIL 19, 1990

Middle East Peace Process

Q. I'm asking the two Presidents if you have some ideas of activating the deadlock peace in the Middle East and especially stopping the settlement in the Old Jerusalem. And I'm asking President Mitterrand your impressions after your meeting with President Arafat [of the Palestine Liberation Organization].

President Mitterrand. The position of France has been known for a long time. I say, alas, for a long time because events have not taken the turn that we would have hoped. Now, we on our part would have hoped for the convening of an international conference. We've also presented some observations to the Israeli leaders concerning the manner in which the election should be held.

My position is that one should reject no opportunity for moving towards peace. And I appreciate the efforts that have been made in various quarters, including by President Mubarak. Now, as to Mr. Yasser Arafat, on two occasions I've had the possibility of having talks with him in considerable depth -- when he first came to visit a number of French leaders and, more briefly, during his recent visit when I received him at the same time as President Carter, where they were good enough to tell me about the results of their conversations. Since the Algiers conference, the PLO has seen with lucidity what the new perspectives are, and I think that such a move on their part should not be discouraged.

Now, as to the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, there should be no misunderstanding here. First, there can be no question of placing any restrictions, any conditions, on the fundamental right of the Jews from the Soviet Union to move about freely wherever they please. To place conditions on their destination and to ask the Soviet Union to sort people out on the basis of such criteria is something that is unacceptable, and this I have stated recently. Now, as to the settlements themselves, my reasoning is very simple: that whatever the origin of the Israelis are, whether they are from the country itself or from outside, it is not wise to multiply such settlements because they give rise to a climate of uncertainty and lack of security, which is not conducive to the general process of reconciliation.

President Bush. She asked both. Let me just say quickly, our policy has not changed. We feel the Baker plan, which originally was thought up by Mr. Shamir [Prime Minister of Israel], is the right way to go to get discussions going and to take the first major step towards peace. And we salute -- I agree with my friend the President of France -- of the constructive role being played by President Mubarak.

MAY 3, 1990


Q. Mr. President, on the hostages, you have frequently pressed the kidnapers to release them. You have urged Iran and Syria to do whatever they can to release them. One of the Iranians' demands -- or the kidnapers' demands is the release of the 400 Shiites and Sheik Obeid that the Israelis hold. You have not pressed the Israelis to do something to facilitate a resolution of that problem. I'd like to ask you why not and why the Arab nations should not see it as a double standard?

The President. I've stated my position: that hostage-holding is unproductive towards facilitating political change. And I'll repeat it again. I want to see all hostages released. There are some, obviously, in all Muslim countries. In Israel, there's definitional problems there. But the United States is opposed to taking hostages.

MAY 24, 1990

Violence in the Israeli-Occupied Territories and the Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, the conflict in Israel between the Israelis and the Palestinians seems to become increasingly violent. Do you think the Israelis at this point are acting appropriately and responsibly?

The President. I've called on both sides for restraint. I've called on the Israeli forces to show constraint. I'm worried about it. I'm troubled about the loss of human life in this area. I'm deeply troubled about -- well, totally human life, but I think particularly of children in this kind of situation. The answer is to get these talks going. I will do everything I can to get the talks for peace going. And so, we're talking. I was on the phone yesterday, I think it was, with Mubarak [President of Egypt]. And we had very good talks -- pre-Baghdad summit -- with Ben Ali [President of Tunisia] here, who represents a friendly country. We're talking to a lot of people about how that can go. But, yes, I am very troubled by this.

Q. But, Mr. President, is there anything the United States can do with its enormous clout with Israel to push the Israelis to be more open to these peace talks?

The President. The problem we face right now is this -- almost an interregnum -- there's no firm decisionmaking government in place. So, we're in a bit of hiatus because of that.

JUNE 3, 1990

Israeli-Occupied Territories and the Middle East Peace Process

Q. This is a two-pronged question for both Presidents. Beyond words, what guarantees can you give the Palestinians that the decisions you made on emigration will not result in the further usurpation of their lands? And why is it that President Gorbachev has shown so much human sympathy for the Palestinians, while the U.S. vetoes even a U.N. look at their plight under military siege?

President Bush. Did you have a particular order you wanted us to answer that question in? [Laughter]

Q. If you can.

President Bush. The United States policy on settlement in the occupied territories is unchanged and is clear. And that is: We oppose new settlements in territories beyond the 1967 lines -- the stated, reaffirmed policy over and over again. Now, we do not oppose the Secretary-General sending an emissary to the Middle East to look at this important question. The question is compounded, however, when you see, on the eve of the discussion of that, an outrageous guerrilla attack on Israel launched from another country. That is unacceptable to the United States. Having said that, the position of our country is we do not think that it needs U.N. troops or U.N. Security Council missions, but we do favor Mr. Goulding, a representative of the Secretary-General, going there.

So, when the question came -- and we differed with the Soviet Union; indeed, we differed with many of our other allies on this question -- it is our view that the most productive way to handle that question was to have an emissary from the Secretary-General, not, as the other countries in the Security Council favored, a Security Council delegation go there.

Q. But, Mr. President, you agree that there have been settlements, even though this has been our policy for many years?

President Bush. Yes, I agree there are settlements that go contrary to the United States policy; and I will continue to represent the policy, reiterate the policy, and try to persuade the Government of Israel that it is counterproductive to go forward with additional settlements in these territories. Our objective is to get the parties to the peace table. And our Secretary of State has worked diligently with the Israelis, and I've tried to do my best to get them talking. And that's what we think is the most immediate step that is needed. And I will continue to reiterate American policy and continue to push for peace talks.

President Gorbachev. Just a moment. I'd like to respond, too. You formulated your question in precise terms, namely: What kind of guarantees can we issue so that those who want to leave -- those who have chosen Israel as their place of residence -- those who leave from the Soviet Union should not be resettled on occupied territories?

This is not a simple question, and this is what I have to say in this connection. The Soviet Union is now being bombarded by a lot of criticism from Arab countries lately. I have had meetings with President Assad of Syria and President Mubarak of Egypt. Those were very important talks with them. Nevertheless, this was the question that was also raised by them in acute terms -- the question of guarantees now. We are facing the following situation.

Either, after these meetings and exchanges with the President of the United States of America on this particular issue, our concern would be heeded in Israel and they will make certain conclusions or else we must give further thought to it in terms of what we can do with issuing permits for exit. And some people are raising the matter in these terms in the Soviet Union, namely: As long as there are no assurances from the Israelis that this is not going to be done by them for the -- to postpone issuing permits for exit, to put it off. But I hope they will heed what the two Presidents strongly advise them, that they should act in a wise fashion. Perhaps this is what I would like to express by way of reacting.

JUNE 8, 1990

Q. How do you approach [Israeli Prime Minister] Shamir forming a right wing government?

The President. Well, that's an internal matter for Israel. But they know the policy of the United States. The policy of the United States is firm: that we want the peace talks to begin, to get going. After all, Shamir, to his credit, was one of the originators of this; Mubarak with his points helping, Jim Baker actively involved with both sides on this. So, it has to go forward, and that is the answer. And I'm not going to -- I mean, Israel can do what it wants in its government, and I'll work with whoever the country puts forth as the government. But they know the policy of the United States in terms of peace talks. So, we're going to stay -- --

Q. Is the peace process harder because of this, sir?

The President. Well, I'm not going to say that. Let's see. Maybe it will go forward, but I've read speculation on that. But I think it's not really officially done yet, either. So, we've got a little time there to see what happens. But the world is crying out for negotiations on this question. It's happening in many other places around the world, and it's essential that it go forward. So, we'll see what happens. We'll keep going on it.

Terrorist Raid in Israel

Q. Sir, are you disappointed that the PLO has not spoken out following that attack?

The President. I would like to see Mr. Arafat [Yasser Arafat, chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization] speak out. One of the members of the PLO council spoke out very strongly against it. But I'd certainly like to see Arafat speak out and denounce it because part of our discussions and dialog was predicated on the renunciation of terror. In my view, this is sheer terror. So, I'd like to see that happen.

Q. But you're not ready to assign responsibility?

The President. I'd like to see that happen.

JUNE 20, 1990

PRESIDENT. Well, based on the recommendation of the Secretary of State, I have decided to suspend the dialog between the United States and the PLO, pending a satisfactory response from the PLO of steps it is taking to resolve problems associated with the recent acts of terrorism, in particular, that May 30th terrorist attack on Israel by the Palestinian Liberation Front, a constituent group of the PLO.

By way of background, on December 14, 1988, Yasser Arafat, speaking on behalf of the PLO Executive Committee, recognized Israel's right to exist. He accepted the United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, and he renounced terrorism. Now, subsequently, the United States announced that because the PLO had met our longstanding conditions for dialog we would begin a substantive dialog with the PLO. And at the time, we applauded Chairman Arafat for taking these essential steps. And we have conducted such a dialog with the PLO through our Embassy in Tunis.

Over the past 18 months, representatives of the United States and the PLO regularly exchanged views about the political and security situation in the region. On balance, we believe that these exchanges contributed to progress in the peace process.

On May 30th, 1990, the Palestinian Liberation Front attempted a seaborne terrorist infiltration into Israel. Palestinian Liberation Front Leader Abu Abbas represents the PLO on the Executive Committee of the PLO. The size of the force and the geographical target area strongly indicate that civilians would have been the target.

That day we issued a statement deploring this attempted terrorist attack. On May 31st, we raised this incident with the PLO in Tunis. We told them that it could not avoid responsibility for an attempted terrorist action by one of its constituent groups and needed to take steps to deal with the matter by condemning the operation, disassociating itself from it, and by also beginning to take steps to discipline Abu Abbas, the perpetrator.

We've given the PLO ample time to deal with this issue. To date, the PLO has not provided a credible accounting of this instance or undertaken the actions outlined above. The U.S. does take note of the fact that the PLO has disassociated itself from this attack and issued a statement condemning attacks against civilians in principle, but as we previously indicated this is not sufficient -- this alone is not sufficient.

The U.S.-PLO dialog has demonstrated that it can advance the Arab-Israeli peace process. And at the same time, the dialog is based on the assumption that the PLO is willing to abide by the conditions it accepted in December, 1988, including renunciation of terror.

At anytime that the PLO is prepared to take the necessary steps, we are prepared to promptly resume the dialog. In the meantime, we would hope and expect that the peace process would proceed as intended and without delay. We remain committed to the pursuit of a comprehensive settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict and to a just and lasting peace. And as is often stated, it is our view that such a peace must be based on those two resolutions, U.N. Resolution 242 and 338, and the principle implicit therein of territory for peace, and provide for Israel's security and Palestinian political rights.

We believe that Palestinian participation is vital to any successful process and that there are real opportunities for Palestinians in this process. We strongly hope that Israelis, Palestinians, and the Arab States will recognize these opportunities and take the necessary steps to create an environment in which a viable peace process can thrive.

We denounce violence in the area and call upon all parties to eschew violence and terror and opt instead for dialog and negotiation. We're prepared to continue working with the parties toward this end.

I'll be glad to take a few questions.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, doesn't your announcement of today, coupled with Secretary Baker's words that the Israelis should call the White House when they're serious, mean that the U.S. position in the peace process, though, in the Middle East is dormant right now?

The President. John [John Mashek, Boston Globe], it's not moving forward right now. And the offer still stands. I have sent a letter to Prime Minister Shamir [of Israel]. I have very specifically asked questions that relate to seriousness about the peace process. But I would like to see the peace process move forward. Nothing herein should indicate anything different. Because here we are simply taking a narrow shot at terrorism.

Palestine Liberation Organization

Q. Is it true that none of our allies, with the exception, of course, of the Israelis, wanted you to suspend these talks with the PLO? And you said you have given the PLO enough time. I mean, why now? Is there some reason it's happening today?

The President. No, I don't think of any reason today, and I didn't set in my mind x numbers of days. But, John [John Cochran, NBC News], I think there will be a lack of agreement with what I've done here on the part of some of our strongest allies. And I know this is true on the part of some of the most reasonable and moderate Arab States. But I would simply remind them of the conditions upon which the dialogs started in the first place, and I would also remind them that if they look at this statement and remedial action is taken the dialog from the U.S. side can promptly be restored.

Q. Was there not a need here, sir, to not appear to be indulging to the PLO at a time when the administration has been tougher than perhaps any recent administration has been with Israel?

The President. That's not what made my decision. And I don't know that we've been tougher. I'm the President of the United States. The United States has a policy. And I'm supposed to, I think, go forward with our policy. And one of the big problems we've had is the question -- between ourselves and the Israeli Government -- is this question of settlements. But I wouldn't read my decision here to go as follows: He made this decision because he's concerned about a complicated relationship with Israel at this point. That's not why I made the decision, but some may read it as that. But we're staying with our concept on the peace process, and we are staying with our policy on settlements. And this action that I've taken today is consistent with our policy on antiterror.

Violence and Terrorism in the Middle East

Q. Mr. President, do you feel that Israel has committed acts of terrorism when it bombs Palestinians?

The President. We spoke out on the recent violence in the Gaza. And please note my last comment calling for peaceful resolution to these questions as opposed to violence and international terror. And that's the way I would respond on that.

Israeli-Occupied Territories

Q. Mr. President, at the same time you're having this trouble with the PLO, you've also got a new Israeli government that has an avowed policy of settling in the West Bank more rapidly than it's been settled in the past. How are you going to deal with that government? What's your policy going to be on aid toward that government, specifically on housing guarantees for Soviet emigrants?

The President. Jerry [Gerald Seib, Wall Street Journal], my position on settlement in the territories is probably as well-known as anything. And our policy is not to have new settlements, and our policy is certainly not to finance new settlements. Is that responsive, or is there another part to your question?

Q. This is a specific question now, though, of whether we'll provide housing guarantees for Soviet emigrants -- $400 million.

The President. But not to settle in the post-'67 territory -- in the territories beyond the '67 lines.

Q. Are you going to seek specific new guarantees from this new government that that won't happen with that money?

The President. Well, I will, and I hope I'm successful. But I think there is no question that the Shamir government knows my position on this, knows the standing position of the United States.

JULY 6, 1990

Middle East Peace Process and Talks With the Palestine Liberation Organization

Q. Did the topic of the Middle East come up during your discussions in the margins of the NATO summit? And can you comment on press reports which indicate you might be considering resuming your dialog with the PLO? And what conditions would you attach to such a resumption?

The President. The discussion of the Middle East in the NATO meetings did not come up. It may have been discussed in the corridors, but it was not a discussion in the meetings at all, and I didn't have discussions in a NATO context about the Middle East.

My position on the dialog with the PLO is that one of the preconditions for discussion was a renunciation of terror. And I viewed the aborted attack on the shores of Israel by some Palestinian commandos as a terrorist act. So, we didn't cancel; we suspended the talks with the PLO. And I would like to think that Mr. Arafat [PLO leader] could some way bring his council not only to denounce that particular terrorist act but also to take some action against the person that perpetrated it. And then I think we would certainly give rapid consideration to renewal of the dialog. I happen to think the dialog has been useful. I don't think Mr. Arafat particularly agrees with that, and I'm quite confident that Mr. Shamir [Prime Minister of Israel] doesn't agree with that, but nevertheless, that's the view of the United States.

Middle East Peace Process

Q. Mr. President, now that you've had time to digest Prime Minister Shamir's letter to you of last week, how does that letter leave you feeling? Does it leave you feeling, as Secretary Baker said, that maybe we should just leave him with the White House phone number and to call when he's serious; or does it leave you feeling you're ready now to get involved in a prolonged negotiation with him, once again spending another few months or years to try to modify his position?

The President. It leaves me feeling we need further clarification in terms of the questions that I've put to him, clarification on some of the answers. But, look, we want to see the peace process go forward. We had good talks with -- I did, and so did Jim Baker -- with the Egyptian Foreign Minister [Ahmed Esmat Abdel Meguid] the other day. I've been on the phone to Mr. Mubarak [President of Egypt], to King Hussein [of Jordan], to others. And we want to see the process go forward. We have the United States policy, and we're going to stay with the policy in terms of settlements and other things of this question.

But we will do everything we can to encourage a discussion that will end up in peace. There has got to be talks; Palestinians have to attend these talks. And so, the ground rules are out there, and we've got to go forward. But we need more clarification, and very candidly, I'd like to think that Israel would now move forward again. And that's about where we stand.

OCTOBER 9, 1990

Palestinian Demonstrators Killed in Jerusalem

Q. Mr. President, yesterday Israeli forces used the live ammunition to put down demonstrations in Israel, killing 19 Palestinians. Today Saddam Hussein [President of Iraq] is using that incident in an attempt to rally Arab support against Israel and, essentially, against the United States in the region. Do you think this incident could create a crack in the alliance against Iraq? And what's your reaction to the incident?

The President. Well, I don't think it could do that. But, look, let me just express my strong feelings about this. First, my sorrow at this tragedy. It is particularly saddening, given the sanctity of the holy places and observances there, that violence shattered all of this. And I want to echo what [Secretary of State] Jim Baker said earlier: that Israeli security forces need to be better prepared for such situations, need to act with greater restraint, particularly when it comes to the use of deadly force. And at this point, what is needed most of all is calm on all sides.

I don't think I need to say this, but let me just state that we want to see the longstanding policy of maintaining open access to the holy places preserved, tempered only by mutual respect for people of other faiths. So, I am very, very saddened by this needless loss of life, and I would call on all for restraint. The action will shift to the United Nations now.

To the other part of your question, Jim [Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News], there's no relationship here. Saddam Hussein has tried to, from the very beginning, justify the illegal invasion of Kuwait by trying to tie it in to the Palestine question. And that is not working. The Arab world is almost united against him. If he tries now to use this unfortunate incident to link the two questions, I don't think that will be successful. And certainly, I will be doing what I can to see that it is not successful.

Having said that, I hope nobody questions our interest in seeing a solution to the Palestine question, to the implementation of the Security Council resolutions. And that's what Jim Baker has been working so hard on for such a long time. But let's separate out this violence and say: We deplore it, and it must not happen, and regret it -- the loss of life -- for everybody.

OCTOBER 23, 1990

Palestinian Demonstrators Killed in Jerusalem

Q. Mr. President, are you prepared to call on Israel to accept a U.N. fact-finding mission?

The President. We've already made clear in the United Nations that we feel that it would be good to have that mission go there, yes.

Q. Is it a mistake, though, that they're refusing?

The President. I've said that we want them to accept it.

Israeli Travel Ban

Q. Mr. President, Israel today closed off the borders of the occupied territories and is prohibiting Palestinians from leaving the occupied territories into Israel. What do you think of that action?

The President. I need to know more about it. I haven't seen that, Tom [Tom Raum, Associated Press]. I don't like to comment on something until I know exactly what happened.

NOVEMBER 23, 1990

Q. Mr. President, I'd like to ask about Israel. You're probably aware that many have reacted in Israel with a sense of insult that could you go meet Assad and not stop in Israel. I wonder if -- given what you said today about the separation, I believe you put it, with policy there -- that you in any way intended that message?

President Bush. No, certainly not. I think the Prime Minister of Israel's comments show a certain understanding about what I'm trying to do. We will continue to have meetings with Israel. So, I haven't picked up anything like that at all. I've seen some press reports that express a difference. But, look, I'm focusing now on these meetings, on this trip, on this Gulf coalition. Syria is a part of it. Nobody should read more into it or less into it than that they are an important part of this coalition. So, I think that's manageable. I'm hoping to see Prime Minister Shamir when he comes to the United States, and indeed, we're in very close contact all up and down our bureaucratic level. So, I'm glad you asked it because I hope there's no misunderstanding. If there is, I'd like to lay it to rest.

This relates to the reversal of aggression, and I happen to feel that not only is that in the interest of the United States, I think it's in the interest of all countries, and that would include every country in the Middle East, which obviously includes the State of Israel. It is in their interest that we prevail, and it is in the interest of Syria, and it is in the interest of Egypt, and it is in the interest of the United States that we prevail against Saddam Hussein. That's what this is about. And we are going to prevail, and I never felt more sure of that than I do today.

DECEMBER 18, 1990

Persian Gulf Crisis

Q. Mr. President, Saddam Hussein knows and you know that his best shot at cracking the cohesion of the coalition raid against him is to draw Israel into it, by direct attack or otherwise. General Scowcroft [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs] indicated that there have been specific discussions with the Israelis and the coalition partners about that contingency. Can you tell us whether there's been any assurance or commitment either by the Israelis or our coalition partners that they would not crack apart if that were to happen?

The President. If -- --

Q. If he attacked Israel.

The President. If he attacked Israel? I'm convinced the coalition would not fall apart. I can't give you the specifics on it, but I'm absolutely convinced of it. And you can assume the way I've answered the question that we've inquired about that.

Secondly, Israel has had what I would call a low profile position in all of this, for which I salute them. It is not easy. Their security, they feel, could well be at stake from some radical act by Saddam Hussein. But I have no argument with Mr. Shamir [Prime Minister of Israel] over the way the Israelis have conducted themselves, nor do I think do the coalition partners on that particular point, regardless of what their historic relationship with Israel may have been.

Sources: Public Papers of the President