Shamir Called Netanyahu ´Squishy and Soft´ (INN) ISRAEL NATIONAL NEWS) By Gil Ronen 07/03/12)
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Yitzchak Shamir, who passed away Saturday, called Binyamin
Netanyahu "squishy" and "too soft," according to James Baker, who was
Secretary of State under George H. W. Bush.
Shamir himself was "really hard-line," in Baker´s view. However, the
diplomat said, Shamir´s relationship with President George H. W. Bush
got off to a bad start when Bush felt Shamir had misled him regarding
settlement in Judea and Samaria (Yehuda and Shomron).
An interview with Baker last year gives fascinating insights into the
dynamics that led to the Madrid Conference in 1991 and the Oslo
Accords in 1993. Baker was interviewed by researchers from the
University of Virginia´s George H. W. Bush Oral History project.
Baker recounted the Bush Administration´s political struggle against
Israel and AIPAC [America Israel Public Affairs Committee] regarding
a $10 million loan guarantee Israel had asked for, which the U.S.
made conditional on its not being used for settling Jews in Judea and
"The only time AIPAC has ever been beaten was in 1981, on AWACS
[Airborne Early Warning and Control Systems sold to Saudi Arabia -
ed.], and in 1991 on the loan guarantee," Baker said proudly. "And
that’s tough stuff."
"President Bush got off to an unfortunate start with Yitzchak Shamir,
the Prime Minister of Israel," Baker explained. "Yitzchak Shamir, in
one of his first meetings with President Bush said, ´Don’t worry
about the settlements. We’re going to take care of that; we’ll deal
with that.´ President Bush interpreted that to mean, ´We’re going to
slow it down, we’re going to stop it, we’re going to deal with your
problems.´ Every administration, Democrat or Republican, had been
opposed to settlements. And then when that didn’t happen, there was
sort of a sense of betrayal I think on President Bush’s part."
The loan guarantee request came up just as the U.S. was assembling a
coalition to eject Iraq from Kuwait, Baker recalled. "One of the
major things we did was to keep Israel from being involved in that
war, but I give credit to Yitzchak Shamir. He was really hard-line.
Did you know that after [Benjamin] Netanyahu became Prime Minister
the first time Shamir called him squishy, too soft, he’d given away
too much? So that’s how hard-line he was."
Shamir was presumably referring to Netanyahu´s agreeing, in the 1998
Wye Accords, to give up Jewish control over most of Hevron.
"But I’ll tell you," Baker went on, "when the war broke out and
Israel was hit by the Scuds, they wanted to intervene, particularly
Moshe Arens, the Defense Minister, and others. We got on the horn to
them and at that time the President’s relationship with Shamir was
quite strained. He asked me to call him and I called the Prime
Minister. I said, ´We sure hope you’re not going to—this would really
turn this from an international community against Saddam Hussein to
an Arab-Israeli dispute, and it really would be counterproductive.´
To his everlasting credit, Shamir overruled his Minister and
said, ´We’re going to let the Americans take care of this.´ And we
agreed to do some more sorties on the Scud sites in Western Iraq and
In his conversation with the University of Virginia scholars, Baker
recalls the difficult fight the Administration waged against Israel
in Congress regarding the loan guarantees – a fight Israel lost.
In Baker´s view, this loss led to crucial diplomatic developments.
"So yes, that was tough, the loan guarantee," Baker said. "But I’ll
tell you one thing the loan guarantee fight did. In my view it
probably made Madrid possible. Madrid was important, not just because
it broke a taboo. If you remember back in those days, the Arabs
wouldn’t talk to Israel, they wouldn’t even sit down with them, and
that was 25 years or so of policy. The loan guarantee fight was
really a fight about settlements."
"This didn’t impact in one way all of the stuff that we were going to
continue to give Israel, and did continue, and in fact we even
increased it. It was just that one issue, and that is one of things
that I think—I don’t know this for sure—caused Syria to change 25
years of policy and say that she would come to Madrid. And when Syria
said it would come to Madrid, it was pretty hard then for Shamir. The
Israeli position for 25 years had been, ´All we want to do is have a
chance to talk face-to-face with our neighbors.´ So at that point he
was not able to say, ´We’re not going to come to Madrid, although he
didn’t like it, didn’t want to do it.´
"[W]e made a lot of progress to get them talking to each other after
25 years," he added. "I’m going to claim—I hope this is correct, I
believe it is—that it led to the Israel-Jordan peace agreement. You
see, it led directly to Oslo. The United States wasn’t involved in
Oslo. The parties did that off to the side and it was dramatic. But
had you not had Madrid, you wouldn’t have had Oslo. You wouldn’t have
had Oslo in ’93." (IsraelNationalNews © 2012 07/03/12)
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