Vice President Bush yesterday issued a blunt call for "all Arab nations" to go beyond their "implicit recognition of Israel," made at an Arab summit conference in Morocco earlier this month, "and state with clarity, as Egypt has done, that Israel has a right to exist."
"Peace cannot be achieved by parties who, like the ostrich, refuse to face reality," Bush said in a luncheon address to the Washington Press Club.
At the same time, he said, now is also the time for Israel "to signal that it, too, intends to accelerate the drive for peace."
As Bush spoke, a multinational force of 3,000 U.S. Marines and French and Italian soldiers was being readied to arrive in Beirut this weekend to try and reduce the fears in that war-torn city, especially among Palestinians, and to provide some stability for the new Lebanese government as Israeli troops pull back.
Administration officials said the vice president's speech was an attempt to redirect attention to the broader Middle East peace initiative outlined by President Reagan on Sept. 1. The plan has been overshadowed by the more recent turmoil in Lebanon, including the assassination of the president-elect on Sept. 14, the occupation of Beirut by Israeli troops and last weekend's massacre of hundreds of Palestinians by Lebanese Phalangist militiamen.
Bush said that the only way to avoid further horrors was for leaders in the region to exhibit the same kind of "bravery and vision" shown by the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat when he visited Jerusalem and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin when he returned the Sinai to Egypt.
Questioned later, Bush acknowledged that his remarks could be viewed as an allusion to Jordan's King Hussein. The United States hopes to create conditions among Arab nations that would help get Hussein into the negotiations for a broader peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
"We clearly would like to see the Jordanians join the process," Bush said.
Hussein has said he has no mandate from the rest of the Arabs to talk for the Palestinians. When asked if the king might be coaxed into participating in negotiations without such authority, Bush said "there are some quiet, positive elements" under way but said he would not prejudge under what conditions Hussein might participate.
In referring to the recent proposal of the Arab states meeting in Fez, Morocco, as providing "an implicit recognition of Israel" because it mentioned a U.N. resolution calling for peace among "all states of the region," Bush became the first top U.S. official to make such an assessment.
Secretary of State George P. Shultz, in congressional hearings earlier this month, said the Fez language could be a "genuine breakthrough" if it implies recognition of Israel.
The Israeli government has rejected the Fez proposal and any interpretation that it implies recognition.
Bush, however, said yesterday that the Fez language is "not enough. Guarded references, allusions and code words cannot suffice," he said, adding that a clear statement of Israel's right to exist is essential.
While Bush talked in his speech of American "dismay and opposition" to the seizure of Beirut by Israeli forces and of "profound horror and outrage when helpless women, children and men are massacred in that capital," he said later that he had tried to avoid the heated rhetoric of recent days and therefore "probably understated the concern that some felt . . . about what had happened."
Bush said there are "clouds" now in U.S.-Israeli relations but that they will dissolve eventually. He also said that the administration view of the Israelis "as friends for strategic and moral reasons is strong and won't be diminished in the long run."
"Israel is the single democracy in the Middle East that subscribes in its everyday life to the democratic process and principles on which the American republic is based," Bush said, pledging an "enduring commitment to the security of Israel."
Bush also said Reagan "is concerned about anonymous stories that he or anyone in the administration would want to interfere in internal Israeli politics. I can't emphasize strongly enough that that is not true."
Earlier this month, however, officials said privately that through such efforts as trying to win support for Reagan's program in the U.S. Jewish community there was at least a chance to influence the debate in Israel about a more flexible approach.
Officials said yesterday that there is now so much domestic and international pressure on Begin that further American pressure at this point could be counterproductive.
Bush declined yesterday to get drawn into questions about the Begin government's unwillingness to have an official investigation of the Beirut massacre. "The truth is going to come out on this, no matter what," he said, "and we don't want to intervene."
Four American Jewish groups called for such an inquiry yesterday. The American Jewish Congress and the American Jewish Committee issued a statement saying an investigation would be "an affirmation that a democratic Israel is ready for a full and free investigation . . . . " The president of the Association of Reformed Zionists said an investigation is "an urgent necessity," and B'nai B'rith also demanded an inquiry.
A group of 31 pro-Israeli congressmen warned Begin in a letter that if he does not allow an investigation it will be viewed as a cover-up. The bipartisan group, including top Democratic leaders and Jewish members of Congress, said it did not believe "any Israeli soldier was directly involved" in the massacre but added that blocking an inquiry "will be widely interpreted as an indication of a measure of Israeli involvement. If such an impression becomes widespread it could, in our judgment, have very grave consequences for the future relationship between our two countries."
Former president Jimmy Carter yesterday called Begin "the obstructing force in preventing the truth being known" about the massacre.