WASHINGTON -- Former President Gerald Ford hopes the resignation of Prime Minister Menachem Begin means Israel will be more flexible in its policies in the Middle East.
And former Secretary of State Alexander Haig said the imminent resignation of Begin was 'an historic event.
'I hope it will be followed by improvement in relations with ourselves and I don't attribute the lack of that improvement to Mr. Begin,' Haig said. 'I never have.'
Ford made his comments to reporters Wednesday prior to his appearance before the presidential bipartisan commission on Central America. Haig spoke after his appearance.
'I would hope the change from Mr. Begin to his successor will bring about a bit more flexibility than has been exhibited by the Israeli government in the past,' Ford said.
Haig said he hoped for 'improvement in convergence of mutual concerns about achievement of lasting peace in the region.'
Begin's policy of virtual annexation of the West Bank has been a major obstacle to U.S. policy in the Middle East for President Reagan, and former Presidents Ford and Jimmy Carter.
Secretary of State George Shultz said Wednesday he wishes Begin well and looks forward to working with the new Israeli government.