- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 20, 2000

Israel's limits

Israeli Ambassador David Ivry says his country has gone as far as it can go in making concessions to the Palestinians.

"Today, Israel has reached the utmost limits in its ability to compromise. It is now the Palestinians that need to reciprocate," he said in remarks prepared for delivery last night at American University's Kennedy Political Union.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, who has rejected Israeli's concessions on a number of key issues, could achieve his goals by compromise, Mr. Ivry said.

"If Yasser Arafat moves forward, his dream of Palestinian statehood can be fulfilled," the ambassador said. "At the same time, we can achieve our dream of bringing the conflict to an end.

"We must remember that negotiations are the only way to reach a peaceful settlement."

Mr. Ivry recalled the words of Israeli statesman Abba Eban, who once stated, "The Palestinians never fail to miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity."

"At the recent Camp David summit, the Palestinians missed what may have been their biggest opportunity yet," Mr. Ivry said.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak was prepared to make concessions on Jewish settlements, the return of Palestinians refugees, Israel's borders and the status of Jerusalem.

"He was not afraid to chart new territory and pay a heavy political price at home," Mr. Ivry said. "Prime Minister Barak was willing to go the extra mile for peace, while guarding Israel's vital interests.

"Unfortunately, Chairman Arafat was unprepared to make the hard compromises needed to reach an agreement. Until now, [Mr.] Arafat has refused to respond to the U.S. proposals. He continued to demand that Israel pay an impossible price for peace [Palestinian control of] all of East Jerusalem, including the old city and Temple Mount, holiest site of Judaism."

Mr. Ivry fears that time is running out for a settlement with the Palestinians.

"We have a very narrow window of opportunity to bring this conflict to an end," he said.

Unlikely diplomat

David Ivry has been a soldier "in the service of Israel" for most of his life.

He was a fighter pilot, commander of the Israeli air force and national security adviser to both former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and current Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

"In my wildest dream, I never thought I would become an ambassador," he revealed in his speech last night.

"In fact, I often poked fun at diplomats. I used to joke that diplomats say a lot, do a little and achieve even less."

Of course, that was before he became Israel's ambassador to the United States.

Mr. Ivry noted that he arrived in Washington in January in a blizzard.

"This may have been an appropriate metaphor," he said. "From Shepherdstown to Camp David, the past nine months have been quite a whirlwind for me."

Shepherdstown, W.Va., was the site of intense talks between Mr. Barak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Shara.

Israel hoped for a breakthrough, but the talks ultimately failed.

"Israel was prepared to make painful territorial compromises in exchange for true peace with Syria," Mr. Ivry said.

Although the Camp David talks with the Palestinians also failed, Mr. Ivry urged Yasser Arafat to return to negotiations.

"I assure you that each day we renew our commitment to bring an end to the Arab-Israeli conflict," he said.

"Should our partners find the courage to share our determination, we will not only forge an historic agreement, we will build a better future for the children of the region, Arab and Israeli alike."

Castro: 'Kidnapper'

Leave it to Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, to come up with this intriguing title for a Senate hearing: "Fidel Castro: Kidnapper (Part 1)."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman plans to hear testimony today from two Cuban dissident doctors who defected while on a medical mission to Zimbabwe, where the government jailed them for a month at Cuba's request.

Dr. Noris Pena Martinez and Dr. Leonel Cordova Rodriguez will testify at 2:30 p.m. in room 419 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Stay tuned for the sequel.

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