President Bush agrees with Secretary of State James Baker, who told Israel "when you get serious about peace, call," a spokesman said Thursday, but Bush added that the White House assigns "no blame" for the breakdown in negotiations.
At a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Baker gave out the White House telephone number, saying to the Israelis, "When you get serious about peace, call." As a result, White House press secretary Marlin Fitzwater said that the White House switchboard was overloaded Wednesday night with 6,000 to 8,000 incoming calls, representing all sides of the Middle East issue.On Thursday, the White House comment office was receiving calls 35 to 1 against the Israeli position, sources said.
"The thrust of Secretary Baker's comments, and our view is that we've worked long and hard for the peace process," Fitzwater added. "We have worked with all the parties in the region in trying to get a dialogue going, but in the final analysis the parties of the region have to want peace to have it happen.
"We can't want it for them," he continued. "What he (Baker) was saying basically is that if they want peace to get a dialogue going, then give us a call."
In his testimony, Baker agreed with Rep. William Broomfield, R-Mich., that the absence of a peace process means the danger of war in the Middle East is as high as it was in 1967 before the Arab-Israeli War.
"We share your concern. I think it is well-founded," Baker said.