Israel Plays Strategic Role for Free World, Says Beigin

Menachem Beigin, the Herut leader and a leader of the Gahal opposition faction in Israel, declared here last night that Israel still plays a role of strategic importance to the free world, even though American military involvement in Vietnam is at an end. He said that role was established by the continued presence of Israeli troops on the eastern banks of the Suez Canal. As long as the canal remains closed, Russia is denied easy access to the Middle East and East Asian countries by sea. “Russian ships must travel half-way around the globe to reach the Iraqi port of Basra,” he said.

Beigin spoke at the 24th annual dinner of the Jewish National Fund, marking the 25th anniversary of Israel’s independence. He reiterated his contention that Israel must retain all of the Arab territories it captured in the Six-Day War. He referred to them as the “liberated areas.” He said “security is a precondition for peace,” indicating that the territories spelled security.

Beigin said he thought that Israel should solve the problem of Arab refugees within its own borders but that the refugee problem in Arab countries was for the Arabs to solve. Arabs who live in Israel should be granted Israeli citizenship if they ask for it, he said, and even those who refuse citizenship deserve “full equality of rights,” he added.

According to Beigin, Zionism’s task over the next 25 years is to see to it that a majority of the world’s Jews live in Israel. He called the emigration of Russian Jews to Israel a “miracle” and a “great victory of Zionism over Communism.” He referred to the Soviet exit tax as a “shameful ransom.” He said no threats of rising anti-Semitism in the Soviet Union would prevent Jews from fighting for the rights of their brethren in the USSR. “The ghetto mentality is destroyed forever. We are free men,” he said.

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