Shamir is Cool to U.S. Jewish Businessmen’s Plan to Engage in Economic Activities in the West Bank

Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir has reacted coolly to a reported initiative by American Jewish businessmen to develop economic enterprises in the administered territories.

Shamir, who has always been opposed to the idea, even while he was Premier, reiterated his opposition following a reported meeting between Premier Shimon Peres and Jewish as well as Arab businessmen in the United States while Peres was on a visit there earlier this month.

The businessmen reportedly told Peres that they we were interested not only in developing economic activity but also in improving the living standards of the Arab residents in the territories as well as improving relations between Jews and Arabs in the U.S.

Some of the participants in the talks, who were not identified except for Najib Halabi, the father of Queen Noor of Jordan, and Howard Squadron, former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, argued that by granting economic benefits to the territories, a new and more moderate leadership may emerge ther — which would be likely to enter into negotiations with Israel for a permanent political solution.

ELEMENTS IN THE PLAN

Peres apparently supported the move, believing it could open the door to better relations with Jordan and lead to possible negotiations in the future. The American businessmen have invited a number of West Bank personalities to discuss their plans, which include the establishment of a new modern hospital in Ramallah, opening a local cement factory and opening an Arab bank. The latter has already been approved in principle by the Israeli government.

The invitation to the West Bank personalities followed a number of visits to Jerusalem by the American businessmen who met, quite discreetly, with possible partners for the proposed ventures.

Shamir opposes the development because he believes it does not serve Israel’s interest. He was quoted as saying that he found it strange that during an economic crisis in Israel there are Jews who are concerned about other areas.

Shamir took exception at a recent Cabinet session to Peres’ statements regarding Israel’s plans to improve the quality of life of the Arabs in the administered territories and his reiteration of these plans during his talks in Washington with President Reagan and other Administration officials.

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