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Sharansky Promises to Push Economic Path to Peace

By Gross, Richard C. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 31, 1996 | Go to article overview

Sharansky Promises to Push Economic Path to Peace


Gross, Richard C., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


Israeli Trade Minister Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident, pledged yesterday to work toward creating Israeli-Palestinian industrial zones as vehicles toward cementing peace between the two peoples.

He echoed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by saying the Likud-led government seeks to continue the peace process that was pushed by the previous, Labor-led government but also wants to see greater openness on the part of the Arabs.

"The new Middle East was in the heads of our great dreamers," Mr. Sharansky said, apparently referring to former Prime Minister Shimon Peres. "What was lacking was that there can be no new Middle East if democratization, liberalization, free voters are not part of it."

Mr. Sharansky spoke at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on a trip that coincided with the visit of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. During the trip he was able to meet with Egypt's public enterprise minister, Atef Obaid, to discuss bureaucratic problems faced by Israeli and Egyptian businessmen traveling between the countries.

Business contacts between Israel and Egypt largely froze after the May 29 election of Mr. Netanyahu "because everyone thought Peres would solve the problem of the Palestinians," an Egyptian source said. "There was a lot of movement, a lot of deals under the surface" between the sides.

"How can you help?" Mohamed Khamis, the chairman of the Federation of Egyptian Industries and part of the Mubarak trip to Washington, asked Mr. Sharansky yesterday, referring to the peace process. "We have big hopes that Netanyahu will be able to continue the tradition of Begin."

Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin concluded the peace treaty with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1979.

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