Remarks Following Meetings With Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel

February 18, 1987

The President. It's been a pleasure to have an old friend, Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir of Israel, back to the White House. His visit symbolizes the close and special relations between our countries. His visit has provided an opportunity for in-depth discussion, and I'm pleased to report our discussions went well. High on our agenda, of course, was Middle Eastern peace and our search for a constructive approach to Arab-Israeli reconciliation. We talked about the dangers that threaten Israel and its neighbors and efforts being made to bring a degree of stability to that troubled region. Measurable progress, we both agree, is vital. Peace cannot be built in an environment where there is no hope.

In our discussions we agreed, again, that the road to peace lies through bilateral negotiations between Israel and its neighbors, including representative Palestinians. We reviewed the diplomatic discussions over the last 2 years which we've conducted with Jordan, Egypt, and Israel -- all of whom share a strong desire to end the conflict that has plagued the Middle East. Our goal now is setting in motion a process accepted by Israel and its neighbors which can lead to a comprehensive peace settlement. We believe this requires direct bilateral negotiations. Any reasonable means of including an international conference should be considered. But the United States remains ready to be an active partner in any serious peace effort.

Prime Minister Shamir and I discussed Iran. I underscored our opposition to Iran's use of force, terrorism, and expansionism. In discussing Iran and other regional issues, the Prime Minister and I agreed on the importance of looking to the future, instead of dwelling on the past. We also went over our countries' strong and vital bilateral relationship and the broad scope of our cooperation. Both our governments face tight budgets. I assured Prime Minister Shamir that we will continue our steadfast support for Israel's own efforts to ensure its security and economic well-being. In that regard we have designated Israel, with other countries, a major non-NATO ally, for purposes of cooperation in certain aspects of military research and development. Finally, in our discussions we reaffirmed our concern about the plight of Soviet Jewry. We took note of recent releases, but are waiting to see the gates truly opened for Jewish emigration.

The United States and Israel share many common values and traditions. We have developed a warm friendship that encompasses close mutual and strategic cooperation. This relationship, in which each gives special consideration to the other's interests, strengthens us both. It's unshakable, and we're proud of it. As we look to the future, the Prime Minister and I are committed to the close cooperation long enjoyed by the United States and Israel. It is an honor to have Prime Minister Shamir with us to reaffirm the solid bond of affection between our countries and our peoples.

The Prime Minister. Mr. President, it is with profound satisfaction that I stand here today, as we give expression to the abiding and deep friendship between our two countries. Mr. President, America under your leadership stands tall and upright despite transient difficulties. You continue to discharge your great responsibility as the leader of the free world. Without strong United States leadership, mankind could be exposed to very grave peril in the hands of the forces of evil and totalitarianism.

Our two countries share values, perceptions, and goals that unite us in thought and in deed. Since my last visit as Prime Minister, we have given more substance to agreements we reached then in regard to strategic cooperation and the free trade area. Now your administration has moved one more step forward by giving a new dimension to our relations. I refer to your decision to accord Israel the status of a major non-NATO ally. We have been among the first to join your Strategic Defense Initiative, and we hope to expand our cooperation in this program. We've also just concluded an agreement enabling the establishment of a relay station for the Voice of America in Israel. Both projects are a reflection of our continuing support of America's defense and advancement of freedom.

In our talks today we explored the prospects of advancing the peace process in the Middle East. While this is not an easy task, it is a noble goal to which we are committed. On the foundations of the Camp David accords -- which remain the only agreement, therefore, only viable cornerstone for peace in the area -- we renew the call to our neighbors to join us in direct negotiations for the obtainment of peace between us. Egypt, our partner to the Camp David agreement, could play a significant role by encouraging our other neighbors to follow her example and enter into face-to-face talks with us without preconditions.

Mr. President, the struggle for the freedom and repatriation of Soviet Jewry is by no means over. We must press on with all vigor to persuade the Soviet authorities to let all our people return to their ancient homeland, the land of Israel. I take this opportunity of expressing our gratitude to you, Mr. President, for the great effort you made for the humanitarian cause of our brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union. Their happiness at coming home to Israel and experiencing freedom and democracy is their and our tribute to you.

Mr. President, this year, 1987, records two events of great significance in the life of our two nations: You will celebrate the bicentennial of the United States Constitution, which is regarded as the model for truth, civil liberties, and democratic government. We are marking the 90th anniversary of the birth of our national liberation movement, Zionism, which restored us to our ancient land and renewed our national independence. Both events have enriched the quality of our lives. And they are the root of our present relationship, joint efforts; our dreams; and our confidence in the future.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Note: The President spoke at 1:30 p.m. on the South Lawn of the White House. Earlier, the President and the Prime Minister met in the Oval Office and then had lunch in the Residence.