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Q & A

June 16, 1992|Dan Williams | Times Staff Writer

Times Staff Writer Dan Williams recently interviewed Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and his chief electoral competitor, Yitzhak Rabin. They proved to be vastly different in style as well as substance.

Shamir, sitting stiffly in a small easy chair in his Jerusalem office, was evasive and short with his answers. Musing about trends is not his strength, and he avoided admitting that something--anything--has changed for Israel.

Rabin, puffing rapidly on a string of cigarettes in his Tel Aviv party headquarters, sees change everywhere and suggested that Israel can fit in--a can-do approach that perhaps can be expected of a challenger.

Here are edited excerpts from those interviews:

SHAMIR

Q. What is the difference between you and Yitzhak Rabin?

A. Well, this is an internal problem. I wouldn't be interested in commenting.

Q. Do you foresee any changes in the settlement policy after election?

A. No changes. I don't see any reason for change. There could be (a change in) some priorities in a given situation . . . perhaps financial reasons, but not in matters of principle.

Q. If your settlement policy remains in place, how will you get support on loan guarantees from the United States?

A. I don't see any link between loan guarantees and policies concerning settlements, the construction of new houses in the disputed areas. I think we have to receive (the guarantees) . . . because of the basic principles of our relationship with the United States. If the United States is convinced it is important to support immigration of Jewish people from the former Soviet Union, then I think any assistance for absorption is justified.

Q. Would you form a coalition that would include the Labor Party in a national unity government?

A. We already had this experience and it failed. Therefore, we believe the best solution is a Likud government.

Q. Your government fell because right-wing parties in the last government rejected your own autonomy proposals for Palestinian autonomy. How can you expect to govern with them again?

A. Certain parties did not accept certain policies of the peace process. If they accept the policy of government, they can come back in.

Q. How would you describe the relations with the United States? How would you improve them?

A. We are talking too much about it (the relationship).

Q. Well, in a few words, perhaps.

A. I think that a sound, solid basis for the relationship exists. From time to time, there are differences of views. I think the main differences are on the territorial issues.

I don't see any reason for a deterioration of relations. The basis of the special relationship

exists. I don't see any weakening of the foundations. We will see to it that cooperation between us and the United States will get stronger. Israel is interested in . . . a strong relationship. It is in our interest and the interest of the United States, and it's useful for the international situation and peace in our area.

Q. If you are reelected prime minister, what will be different in Israel at the end of the next four-year term?

A. There will be a lot of progress in many regards. I hope immigration will increase, absorption will go farther and faster. There will be a considerable improvement in our economy. The peace process

will make progress and maybe during the time of the mandate (four-year term) . . . we will reach some agreements in this process.

Q. What did you learn from the "intifada"?

A. I think the intifada is getting weaker and it should continue in this direction. More and more Arabs and Palestinians will rely on the peace process and will focus hopes on the positive results of the peace process, and more and more people will become convinced that the intifada is useless.

Q. But have you learned anything?

A. The same. Anyhow, the intifada will not have any impact on our policies.

Q. You are under attack for the economic difficulties under your government. . . .

A. (Laughs) I don't remember any time without economic difficulties. But there are many indications of considerable improvement in the not-far future. There is certainly influence of the economy on immigration. That may be. I don't know the exact measure of that influence. I hope that the immigration will get bigger.

RABIN

Q. What is the difference between you and Yitzhak Shamir?

A. First, I believe that our position on the substance of the peace negotiations is different. We will focus on negotiations with the Palestinians from the territories on the creation of autonomy offering, first, general elections in the territories. Second, we will freeze all of what I call the political settlements--that no doubt, in my mind, are in contradiction with the bona fide negotiation for autonomy.

We had opposed settling in the densely populated (Arab) areas. At the same time, we would not freeze building in greater Jerusalem and its vicinity and along the confrontation lines in the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights.

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