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Begin Tells Peace Group He Will Not Hand over West Bank, Gaza Strip to Foreign Rule

Premier Menachem Begin met over the weekend with three representatives of the Peace Now Movement but there was no meeting of minds. The group, representing some 300 reserve officers who have been urging a more flexible policy on the government under the slogan that an Israel at peace is more important than a “Greater Israel,” was told by the Premier that he had no intention of ever handing over the West Bank and Gaza Strip to foreign rule. (See related stories P. 4.)

Begin insisted that his policies were endorsed by the electorate last May and he would not abandon them. A spokesman for the Peace Now delegation told reporters afterwards, “We came out of the meeting feeling that the Premier confirmed our fears that he prefers a Greater Israel to peace and that he is motivated by ideological motives which prevent him from making any territorial concessions on the West Bank for the sake of peace.”

When the delegates told Begin that large segments of the Israeli public shared their view that his government was not doing enough to achieve peace, the Premier reportedly responded, “This government has won the confidence of the people. Would you expect it to act contrary to the platform with which it went to the elections? The members of the Peace Now movement said they would continue their campaign, nevertheless to soften the government’s policies.

PROFESSORS, MKS SUPPORT PEACE GROUP

Meanwhile, a group of 350 distinguished professors at Israeli universities signed a petition supporting the Peace Now movement and accusing the Begin government of inflexibility in negotiations with Egypt. Charging that the government prefers territory to peace, the group warned that Israel’s present policies will not lead to a compromise settlement but rather to the loss of friends the increased isolation of Israel, division among the Jewish people and an escalated danger of war.

The signatories included Arye Dvoretzky, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences; Gershon Shalom, former president of the Academy; Don Patinkin, a winner of the Israel Prize; Jacob Katz, Jacob Talmon, Shimon Shamir and Yehoshafat Harkabi, all historians. Harkabi is a former advisor to the Prime Minister an intelligence affairs.

Earlier, a group of 10 Knesset members, among them two former Foreign Ministers–Abba Eban and Yigal Allon–published a declaration of support for the Peace Now movement. In addition to Laborites, it was also signed by two members of the Democratic Movement for Change (DMC), a partner in the Likud coalition.

The declaration praised the initiative of the Peace Now movement, its genuine concern for peace, for Israel’s security and for the improvement of Israel’s society. It urged the government to agree to self-determination for the Palestinians, free from Israeli rule, though it opposed recognition of the Palestine Liberation Organization. The declaration was critical of the Begin policy of planting Jewish settlements without security justification in areas of dense Arab population.

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