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


FEBRUARY 25, 1992

Loan Guarantees for Israel

Q. Any reaction from the Israelis to Secretary Baker's -- --

The President. I haven't seen it this morning, saw some yesterday but hadn't seen anything new to add to that. I thought the Secretary expressed the policy of the U.S. Government very clearly, very forcefully, and very correctly.

Q. If Congress were to pass the loan guarantees without the settlements freeze, would you veto any such legislation?

The President. That's too hypothetical. We spelled out our policy, and there it is. And it's the proper policy. We haven't changed. That's been the policy of the U.S. Government for a long, long time.

Q. Is it politically risky for you to now take this position?

The President. It might be, but I'm not going to shift the foreign policy of this country because of political expediency. I can't do that and have any credibility worldwide. And we have credibility worldwide. Otherwise we wouldn't have been able to facilitate the peace talks in the first place. So, we just have certain policy positions, and they're sound.

MARCH 17, 1992

Loan Guarantees for Israel

Q. Mr. President, the Israeli loan guarantees, are they dead?

The President. What did you say?

Q. The Israeli loan guarantees, are they dead now?

The President. Well, I don't think they're dead. We have always wanted to go forward with loan guarantees. Our administration has been in the forefront of bringing and encouraging people to go home to Israel, whether it be from the Soviet Union or Ethiopia. We have a longstanding policy that feels that settlements are counterproductive to peace. This is not a new policy. This is a longstanding policy. And I am determined to see that that policy not be altered.

However, if there's room within that policy to do what we'd like to do, which is to support the people coming home, why, we'd like to do that. But settlements are counterproductive to peace, and everybody knows that. So we'll just have to wait and see. I have made my position very, very clear to the Congress, and Secretary Baker has done the same thing. And we have close historic relations with Israel, and they will always be that way. But we have a difference now, it appears, in terms of these settlements. But I have said over and over again that we want to help, we want to help in a humanitarian way, but that we simply are not going to shift and change the foreign policy of this country.

JULY 16, 1992


Q. Any comment on the Israeli announcement on the settlements?

The President. No. If you'd help me with what announcement you're talking about.

Q. I believe they've announced they're freezing settlements.

The President. Well, the Israeli election was a lot about that. And I can't comment on the statement. I've not seen it. But I'm looking forward to receiving the Prime Minister of Israel and hopefully in the next couple of weeks, next 2 or 3 weeks. I've pledged to work to strengthen the very important relationship between the two countries. But I just can't comment on that particular because literally I'm -- I've seen some clips, some summaries, what they call a White House News Summary. But I've not read the papers. I have not watched television. Sorry, Ann. And I have not listened to the radio on this. That's why I'm in such a wonderfully relaxed mood. And now I want to go back and catch a few more fish.


Palestinian State and Middle East Peace

Q. Mr. President, do you still oppose the creation of an independent Palestinian state? And what framework for peace do you see involving and between Arabs and Israelis?

The President. The second part -- the answer to the first part is, yes.

Q. And what framework for peace do you see involving and between Arabs and Israelis?

The President. The answer is, yes, I still oppose a Palestinian state. I've been consistent on that for a long, long time. But I think the framework lies in successful step-by-step progress on these negotiations. And once again I don't want to put this in too much of a political context, but I think some in our administration deserve great credit for the diplomacy used in bringing these parties together. And therein is the best framework for the peace.

Let the parties negotiate it out. Let the parties -- we're not going to dictate the terms. We shouldn't dictate the terms. Let the parties negotiate it out in face-to-face negotiation. The framework is there. Now our role is to be catalytic, to keep the people at the peace table as best we can, be as helpful as we can in that, and not try to impose some settlement on one party or another. And it takes a while, but we're making?20some progress, I think.

Sale of F - 15's to Saudi Arabia

Q. With a final question, we are concerned about news reports that you plan to send to Congress a proposal to sell F - 15 jets to Saudi Arabia, especially since Saudi Arabia is in a state of war with Israel and is engaged in an economic boycott of Israel, which also affects the United States, business interests and American jobs. Do you still plan to propose the sale of F - 15's to the Saudis?

The President. When you're President, you look at all the issues. You look at everything in the area. One of them, of course, is Israel's qualitative edge. As I said in my remarks, I'm going to keep that in mind. You also look at the domestic economy. You also look at the Persian Gulf and the areas of stress and constraint over there.

No decision has been made. We have made consultations. I do want to make this a little bit, put a little political spin on this, my opponent the other day in St. Louis, big headline, said that he supported the sale. When you are President you have to do a lot of consultation on this. I can tell you no final decision has been made. I don't want to misrepresent it: Consideration is being given to this. But whether there is any difference between the parties for this election on this question, I don't know. But I can guarantee you the qualitative edge that Israel has will not be neglected. And as I say, I will keep fighting for the elimination of the boycott and these other -- and for the day when you can sit down and have a peace agreement.

But again, a President has to look at the overall security requirements, and that's exactly what I am doing right now. And I would then have to notify Congress, I'm not sure of the timing on that, if a decision is made to go forward. But again, I will think it all out, make my decision, and call it the way I see it like that umpire does. The buck does stop on that desk in the Oval Office, and you have to make tough calls sometimes.

OCTOBER 29, 1992

Middle East Peace Talks

Q. How do you plan, Mr. Bush, to keep the Middle East peace talks going in a fair and representative manner? What do you hope that each side will ultimately aspire to, and how will it affect the global community?

The President. Dana, I never thought anybody would ask such an intelligent question, because I've been running this campaign -- you might think foreign affairs don't matter. Look -- and this gives me a chance to hit it partially out of the park. Because of what we did in Desert Storm, we were able -- with the able leadership of a great team, Jim Baker, who's with me here tonight, and Brent Scowcroft in the White House and Larry Eagleburger and many others -- to get these parties, historic enemies, talking to each other in the Middle East. If you'd have said when I became President that Arabs would be talking to Israel, nobody would have believed it. And we did it. We did it by defending our own foreign policy interests. We did it by helping kill aggression.

So the talks are going on, and in my view they will continue to go on. There were some cross-border problems in Lebanon and Israel the other day, but I think the talks are going to go on because I think all sides want it. You're seeing progress. You're seeing Syrian Jews permitted to leave, and you're seeing much more in the way of talking.

You asked what do I aspire for, to do: Simply to have peace in the Middle East. It's got to be based on the U.N. Security Resolutions 242, 338, which talks about getting the borders adjusted, safe and secure borders for Israel. And you're going to -- have to be compromise. But they're talking. And it is a dramatic accomplishment.

There's so many factions there, the Syrians and the Palestinians and the Lebanese, that I can't give you a formula in 10 seconds about it. But I am convinced that the talks will continue. They want peace. And all the Arab countries are pitching in. We are the first administration to ever bring about that kind of widespread negotiation.

Moderator. Do you think if you were reelected for the next 4 years, it is possible to get some kind of a settlement once and for all?

The President. I would think it's possible. I wouldn't want to hold out a false goal. But I think it's possible, yes. That's a good word for it, possible. But it's very important that it do happen. We have a special relationship with Israel because of the way we've conducted our foreign policy. Again back to the Gulf, we have very strong relations with Saudi Arabia.

I took a little flak for talking to Assad of Syria in some quarters. But it was the right thing to do, and now Syria is having some discussion at these peace talks with Israel. Who would have thought that possible?

So I think it is possible. I certainly hope it's possible.

Sources: Public Papers of the President