LONDON (Dec. 2)
British Foreign Secretary Francis Pym expressed disappointment with both the Israeli and Arab response to the Middle East peace initiative announced by President Reagan September I. But he criticized Israel more sharply for refusing Reagan’s call for a freeze of settlements on the West Bank.
Pym spoke at a meeting of Jewish leaders from the Commonwealth countries, organized Tuesday by the Board of Deputies of British Jews He stressed that despite his criticism of Israel’s negative response to the Reagan proposals, Britain had “deep respect” for Israel, its democracy and freedom.
He observed in that connection that Israel was demonstrating the health of its democracy by its investigation of the west Beirut refugee camps massacres. “There are precious few countries in the world which have the courage or confidence to subject their government’s actions to public scrutiny this way, ” he said.
Pym told the meeting that some of the reactions on the Arab side to the Reagan initiative had been “disappointingly negative,” although there has not been a considered Arab reaction. But, he added, “I have to say that I was disappointed by the Israeli reaction to President Reagan’s proposals. Mr. Begin does not accept them even as a basis for discussion.”
Pym maintained that the continued establishment of Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Gaza Strip was “a profound disservice to the cause of peace.” He said Israel’s rejection of a settlement freeze “does more than anything else to undermine confidence that Israel truly seeks a peaceful accommodation with her Arab neighbors.”
The Foreign Secretary did not support the creation of a Palestinian state on grounds that this was only one possible solution and that the Palestinians must decide for themselves how to implement their aspirations. By the same token, he said that “Only Israel can decide what is in her own security interests. She is right to test all peace proposals under this essential criterion.”