LONDON (Oct. 27)
Prime Minister James Callaghan’s reiteration of Britain’s position in favor of a Palestinian state, which drew a chilly reception from the Board of Deputies of British Jews when he addressed its Sunday meeting marking the 60th anniversary of the Balfour Declaration, continued to have unfavorable reverberations throughout the Anglo-Jewish community during the week. The address was broadcast live here and was televised for Israeli audiences.
Despite giving him a warm personal reception, the crowded meeting heard his call for an Arab “homeland” in silence. Later speakers ignored it completely, while taking issue with his implied call for almost total Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories.
“We believe that the way to solve the problem is by setting up a homeland of some kind for the Palestinian Arabs,” Callaghan said. What form the homeland should take was a matter for the parties concerned, but it “obviously” could not just be in Jordan. The one million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip would neither be absorbed by Jordan nor would they wish to be uprooted from their homes, the Prime Minister said.
Most of those people were not refugees and some means of satisfying their aspirations without posing an unacceptable threat to Israel’s security had to be found if peace was to come, he added.
WARNS AGAINST ILLUSION
Callaghan warned against the belief that Israel could guarantee her security indefinitely by the occupation of territory. “That is a standing invitation to continuing tension and the danger of renewed war.” While borders must be geographically relevant, possession of territory was no longer the only security factor, he said.
The experience in Sinai had shown that demilitarized zones and advance early warning systems could also enhance security without the occupation of territory and these should all play a part in a final settlement, Callaghan said. In return, however, Israel should secure commitments to peace and to the establishment of normal commercial and cultural relations with her Arab neighbors. Such commitments must be complemented by solid guarantees in which Israel could have full confidence.
SHARP DIFFERENCES EXPRESSED
The speakers who followed did not disguise the gap between Britain’s policy and the view of the Anglo-Jewish community as regards new Israeli borders. But none of them referred to the call for a Palestinian Arab homeland.
Lord Janner, chairman of the Board’s Eretz Israel Committee, said Israel and the Jewish people did not want any other people to lay down their lives on behalf of the Jewish State. In order that this should not happen, Israel must be secure. Dr. S. Levenberg, the Board’s vice-president, said that Israel’s apparent obsession with security was understandable to all who knew the history of the Jewish people.
Further comments on the Prime Minister’s speech were made after the luncheon which followed the Board’s meeting. One of the speakers was Jacques Torczyner, former president of the Zionist Organization of America, who praised efforts for a just peace but warned against any tendency to sacrifice Israel’s vital interest.
The only person to express whole-hearted agreement with everything the Prime Minister had said was Lord Boothby, president of the Anglo-Israel Association, who said he had made a “characteristically brave and wise speech to an audience which he knew would be critical.”
The Israeli Ambassador, Avraham Kidron, refrained completely from commenting on Callaghan’s Middle East policy, preferring to refer to the Balfour Declaration. He revealed that when he had presented his credentials to the Queen, he told her that in Jewish history the Declaration was one of two shining beacons. The other was the Decree of Cyrus, the Persian ruler, more than 500 years BCE.
During the week, others continued to express criticism. Michael Fidler, the immediate past president of the Board, said that he had been “greatly dismayed and deeply disappointed” by the Prime Minister’s reference to the Palestinian problem and said that the Board should express its criticism of certain parts of the speech.
Eric Graus, president of Herut in Britain, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Callaghan had shown “bad taste” in espousing an Arab homeland in Palestine on an occasion recalling Britain’s historic support for a Jewish national home there.