JERUSALEM (Oct. 30)
British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe called on Israel to freeze West Bank settlements “to make it plain to all that Israel has no intention of pre-empting the outcome of negotiations.” Howe, on his first visit ever to Israel, made his call last night in a speech to Cabinet ministers, Knesset members and reporters at the official dinner given in his honor by his host, Deputy Premier and Foreign Minister Yitzhak Shamir.
How said Israel-Arab peace must be based on the twin principles of “acceptance by all of Israel’s right to secure existence, and acceptance by all of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.”
The Foreign Secretary observed that “self-determination means just what it says. It means that the Palestinians should be able to choose what attainable constitutional arrangements they can willingly accept.” He added that the Palestinians must commit themselves to “finding a solution, not by violence but by peaceful means.”
SAYS PLO HAS ROLE IN PEACE PROCESS
Howe spumed any comparison between the Palestine Liberation Organization, which in his view should be associated with the Middle East peace process if the Palestinians so wish, and the Irish Republican Army. He said that in Ireland, on both sides, “people can express their democratic rights at the ballot box.”
Israeli sources said Howe had not broached the matter of a West Bank settlement freeze during his separate talks yesterday with Premier Shimon Peres, Defense Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Shamir. Officials on both sides said the talks had been friendly and relations between the two countries were “good and improving.”
In his talks with Peres, Howe said that Britain would strongly support an enhanced role for the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). But he indicated he was not thinking in terms of a British military contingent, rather, he meant logistic and other indirect support for UNIFIL. (At present, UNIFIL is helped logistically by British troops stationed in Cyprus.)
VIEW ON ISRAEL-LEBANON TALKS
Addressing a news conference in Jerusalem today, on the last day of his two-day official visit, Howe urged Israel and Lebanon “not to let procedural problems get in the way” of seeking the solution they both wanted to the south Lebanon crisis.
Howe, who met with Lebanese President Amin Gemayel in Beirut Sunday before flying to Israel, appeared to be referring to the Israel-Lebanon dispute over whether projected military talks between them should be considered meetings of the Mixed Armistice Commission or not. Israel has rejected Lebanon’s notion that the talks be considered sessions of the long-defunct Commission.
Israel has held that ever since the Six-Day War, the 1949 armistice agreement is dead and buried. The armistice accord ended the war between the fledgling State of Israel and Lebanon, setting up UN observers to monitor the truce and a mixed commission to deal with continuing problems. Lebanon cancelled the agreement 17 years ago.
In his news conference today, Howe did not suggest a specific recipe for how to get around the “procedural problems.” He merely noted that Lebanon and Israel did share the same objective and therefore “progress on substance should not be held up by problems of procedure.”
Howe said the tone of relations between Britain and Israel had improved of late, following the nadir at the time of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon. Britain’s policy since then of an effective arms embargo on Israel (Howe referred to it as a “restriction”) was “under constant review,” he said in response to a question.
MEETS WITH WEST BANK NOTABLES
Howe met with the press after a breakfast session at the United Kingdom Consulate in East Jerusalem with leading West Bank figures, including Mayor Elias Freij of Bethlehem and Dr. Gabi Baramki, president of Bir Zeit University. The British diplomat said he had discussed ways of increasing European Economic Community and other outside aid to the occupied territories, and that his Palestinian interlocutors had “set out clearly their views” on the problems they faced.
One of the West Bankers, Rashad Shawa, deposed Mayor of Gaza, said after the breakfast meeting that Howe had been told that “people in the West Bank feel very bad, life under the occupation is miserable” and that “we consider every Palestinian inside and outside the West Bank and Gaza as part of the PLO.”
PERES INVITED FOR OFFICIAL VISIT TO BRITAIN
Before ending his visit to Israel, Howe conveyed to Peres an invitation from British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to pay an official visit to Britain. Israel’s Ambassador to London, Yehuda Avner, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that this was the first time ever an Israeli Premier had been invited for an official visit (as distinct from a working visit) to Britain. Howe also invited Shamir for a reciprocal visit, to take place in the spring.