NEW YORK (Mar. 20)
Moshe Rivlin, chairman of the Jewish National Fund Board of Directors, declared last night that “as a direct consequence of the signing of a peace treaty between Israel and Egypt, the JNF will triple its operations in reclamation and development of new areas, especially in the Negev.” Rivlin disclosed that contingency plans have already been worked out between the JNF and the Israeli government and Jewish Agency authorities to begin the work immediately after the signing of the treaty.
Rivlin made the announcement at the JNF’s gola dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel here, where 500 delegates from throughout the U.S. are attending the two-day National Assembly of the JNF.
Addressing guests and JNF leaders at the dinner, Rivlin said that the Board of Directors of the JNF is about to approve a budget that will enable the JNF to build the infrastructure for 20 new settlements on the Israeli side of the Sinai border and to add new settlements in the Arava portion of the Negev further to the east on the border with Jordan.
Rivlin also said the new JNF budget will provide for the building of 29 outposts or “lookouts” in hitherto unsettled areas in the rocky belts of the Galilee.
NEW ERA IN THE MIDEAST
Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Ephraim Evron, who came to last night’s dinner after participating in Israeli Defense Minister Ezer Weizman’s meeting with Secretary of Defense Harold Brown in Washington, said that Israel is approaching a new era and “standing on a threshold of a new challenge,” with the signing of the peace treaty with Egypt. “I believe that the peace treaty with Egypt will change the whole character of relations in the Mideast,” Evron predicted. But he cautioned that no one should expect “wonders” after the peace treaty is signed, recalling the warning of Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir Arafat that the Mideast will “explode” after the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty is signed.
Evron also said that the “challenge of peace is no less difficult than the challenge of war,” noting that Israel has to overcome the problem of the social gap and establish a more just and equal society.
JNF ACTIVITIES DETAILED
Earlier in the day, in a special interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Rivlin elaborated on the role of the JNF after the peace treaty with Egypt is signed. He said that the establishment of the 20 new settlements–east to the new border between Egypt and Israel near the present settlements in the Rafah salient will require the reclamation of some 20,000 acres which are presently covered by vast dunes. “We will have to remove and transfer tens of millions of cubic meters of sand,” Rivlin noted. “We will have to build new roads and plant trees immediately to protect the reclaimed land from the dunes.”
Other settlements will have to be built on the southern border of the Arava, between Yatbota and Eilat, Rivlin said, noting that this area is the meeting center of Israel’s borders with Jordan, Egypt and Saudi Arabio.
The JNF, Rivlin said, is also planning two major projects in the Negev to enhance the “quality of life” in that area Eshkol Park, in the Beshor region, and Park Timna, near Eilat.
Turning to the JNF’s works in the Galilee, Rivlin warned that if Israel will not increase its Jewish population and Jewish settlements in the Galilee now, “we will all be sorry in the future.” Presently, he said, the JNF is in the midst of works on 29 “lookouts” which are the basis for future settlements. This requires the JNF to build 80 kilometers of new roads in the rocky mountains of Galilee, in addition to the reclamation of thousands of acres. The new projects and challenges will increase JNF expenses threefold next year, compared with this year, Rivlin said.
“The JNF work in Galilee, out projects in the Negev and the corridor of Jerusalem are in fact the answer of the JNF to the challenges of peace. I see our work in the Negev as a sign that declares that the war between two people has ended and, instead, lets us concentrate on a war against the desert,” Rivlin said, “I think,” he added, that every Jew should consider it a privilege to share in the challenge of peace and to take part in strengthening and developing Israel, because this development is the guarantee for peace.”
SHARES FATHER’S LOVE FOR ISRAEL
Addressing last night’s dinner was State Senator Hubert H. Humphrey III (D. Minn.), who, two months ago, attended the dedication of the Hubert H. Humphrey Parkway in the Jewish National Fund’s American Bicentennial Park in Israel. He spoke of his meetings with President Yitzhak Navon and Premier Menachem Begin, referring to his trip as one of the most moving experiences he has had. “I experienced 4,000 years of history in 10 days,” he said. “I learned so much… what is at stake for Israel is at stake for all of us. A free, open democracy… that is what Israel stands for. And in this cause, I share my father’s lifelong love for Israel and for the work of the JNF, for the JNF is truly a builder of peace and hope.”