Thatcher’s Firing of Pym May Curb Pro-arab Leanings
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Thatcher’s Firing of Pym May Curb Pro-arab Leanings

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Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has fired Foreign Secretary Francis Pym and promoted two young Jewish ministers in a Cabinet reshuffle following her landslide election victory last Thursday.

Pym, who succeeded Lord Carrington only 14 months ago, has been replaced by Sir Geoffrey Howe, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is especially close to Thatcher. According to observers, the change consolidates the Prime Minister’s personal control over foreign policy and might curb the Foreign Office’s pro-Arab tendencies that have caused Thatcher some embarrassment in recent months.

Howe was replaced at the Treasury by Nigel Law-son, 51, a Jewish former journalist. Another Jewish minister, Leon Brittan, 43, was elevated to the office of Home Secretary. Brittan, the son of a Lithuanian-born doctor whose grandparents died in the Holocaust, is the youngest Home Secretary since Winston Churchill held that post early in the century.

Howe and Brittan are considered rightwing in their economic views but liberal on social issues. Neither has been as vocal in their expressions of friendship for Israel however as Cecil Parker, promoted to the office of Secretary for Trade and Industry. Parker, as guest speaker at last month’s dinner of the British-Israel Chamber of Commerce, delivered one of the most effusively pro-Israel speeches heard in London since the 1967 Six-Day War.


His many Israeli friends will be watching to see whether he will favor a tougher stand against the Arab boycott. That could also be a test for the new Foreign Secretary, Howe. Generally, the new Parliament is potentially more sympathetic toward Israel, largely because of the devastating defeat suffered by the Labor Party which at its last annual conference supported the Palestine Liberation Organization’s call for a “secular democratic state of Palestine.”

At the some time, Greville Janner, president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, is the only Labor member of Parliament in the city of Leicester to retain his seat.

On the eve of the elections, Thatcher affirmed her “strong, personal support and admiration for the State of Israel.” But she also defended her government’s contacts with the PLO, ruled out moving the British Embassy to Jerusalem and denied that Jews had “an unconditional right” to settle on the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

She made those remarks in response to a questionnaire submitted by the National Zionist Council. She also said that some form of Palestinian self-determination is “an essential part of an eventual peace settlement” in the Middle East. She described President Reagan’s September I Mideast peace initiative as “the only practical starting point” for wider negotiations in the region.


The Zionist Council, comprised of the British Herut, Mizrachi and the General Zionists –affiliates of the major components of Premier Menachem Begin’s coalition — expressed disappointment at Thatcher’s reply. “While we appreciate her expression of personal support and admiration for Israel, unfortunately her answers to our points do not bear out her sentiments,” a Zionist Council statement said.

Meanwhile, Thatcher has recommended for Knighthood 63 year-old Alfred Sherman, the Jewish director of the Conservative Party’s Center for Policy Studies. Sherman, who is married to an Israeli and once worked in Israel as a journalist and later as London correspondent of Haaretz, served with the International Brigade in the Spanish Civil War. But his politics have since veered sharply and he is now one of the Conservative Party’s most controversial rightwing theoreticians.

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