JERUSALEM -- Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres tomorrow will make his first trip to Washington since assuming the reins of government here, seeking to reinforce Israel's strategic relationship with the United States and to restart U.S.-mediated peace talks with Syria.
Mr. Peres will meet with President Clinton to try to forge the kind of personal relationship the American president had with slain Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Mr. Peres also will speak before a joint session of Congress, lobby Capitol Hill to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and work on Israel's ties with the U.S. Jewish community. But his main emphasis will be Syria.
After face-to-face consultations with Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak and Jordan's King Hussein last week, the Israeli prime minister will present Mr. Clinton with his ideas for breaking the six-month deadlock with Syria, U.S. and Israeli officials said.
One proposal reportedly on Mr. Peres' list is a three-way summit with Mr. Clinton and Syria's President Hafez el Assad.
U.S. and Israeli officials say they believe that Mr. Peres and Mr. Assad are serious about another attempt at making peace.
Talks between Israel and Syria broke off last summer over the issue of security arrangements on the Golan Heights after a withdrawal by the Israelis.
Israel wanted to retain ground-based early warning stations on the Golan even after giving back territory captured in the 1967 Middle East War. Mr. Assad refused and said he wanted Israel to agree to withdraw from the entire Golan Heights before he would resume negotiations.
Mr. Rabin responded that that was tantamount to asking for the whole pie before entering into negotiations for any piece of it.
Mr. Peres believes he can take a peace agreement with Syria to Israeli voters next year, Israeli officials said, and Mr. Assad also apparently believes that Mr. Peres is more sincere in his desire to reach an agreement.
Mr. Peres' concern with security arrangements reportedly does not differ greatly from Mr. Rabin's, given the strategic value of the high Golan plateau overlooking tiny Israel. Mr. Peres insists he has not given up on ground stations, despite press reports that he might be willing to consider options.
An Israeli official following the Syrian issue said, "I am not sure we can drop ground warning systems until someone offers us an alternative."
But Mr. Peres also is more focused on other issues involved in a comprehensive peace agreement, such as full diplomatic and trade relations.
"Rabin believed the road to peace came through security. Peres believes the road to security comes through peace," said government spokesman Uri Dromi.
"Peres says that we can talk on a variety of issues and what we don't agree on put aside for later. That worked with the
TC Palestinians, it worked with Jordan.
"Why can't it work with Syria?"