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Beigin Says There is ‘deep Friendship’ Between U.s., Israel; Hopes It Will Last

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Israel’s opposition leader, Menachem Beigin, said last night that there was “deep friendship” between his country and the United States and that he hoped it would be “a lasting one,” But he declined to comment on the policies of the Meir and Nixon administrations “whilst I am a guest in your country.” At no time during the 55-minute interview on WMCA Radio did the host, Barry Gray, pursue the reasons for Beigin’s departure from the Cabinet in July–the opposition of his Gahal Party to the government’s acceptance of the U.S. peace initiative. There was no mention on the program of the words “Gahal” and “withdrawal,” although Israeli retention of the captured territories, at least until there is a peace settlement, is Beigin’s major policy plank. The 57-year-old Gahal chairman, who is in this country speaking to Zionist Organization of America groups, scored charges of Israeli aggression in June, 1967, as “hostile propaganda” and “a complete, utter, unheard-of distortion of facts.” On the contrary, he said, Israel had faced “a threat of annihilation, of complete, utter destruction, so we defended ourselves.”

Right now, Beigin added, the Soviet Union has a “terrific fleet” seeking passage through the Suez Canal to the Indian Ocean. He called on the Arab governments to solve the refugee problem “constructively, humanely,” and explained that Israel does not draft Israeli Arabs into the Army because “from time to time there are hostilities between Israel and the Arab, and we don’t like to see Arab fighting against Arab.” Beigin said he thought Premier Golda Meir was a “very strong” head of state who provides “very effective leadership,” and that “I respect her very highly indeed” despite “differences of opinion.” He added that “I suppose she’s a very wise woman,” and predicted that she would survive any vote of confidence. He said the relationship between the Labor Alignment and Gahal has remained “friendly.” On financial matters, Beigin noted that “We are the highest-taxed people on earth, and we accept it.” He said he expected Americans would react with “astonishment” to the fact that he and his wife subsist on his Knesset salary of $250 a month. “Somehow my wife makes both ends meet–with difficulty,” he said, adding, “We pay smaller rent because it is an old house.” On labor matters, Beigin observed that “We have our portion of strikes…, but somehow we manage.”

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