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Peres: West Bank Policy to Remain the Same As It Was During His Tenure

Vice Premier and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Sunday that Israel’s policy in the West Bank would remain the same as it was during the two years he was Prime Minister.

Speaking to a visiting delegation of the Parliament of Europe on a study tour of Israel, Peres said the aim was to guarantee the security of all West Bank residents and improve their quality of life. It would be done by changing previous West Bank settlement policies and appointing Arab mayors to replace Israeli military officers governing Arab towns, he said. This has already been done in several towns.

Peres said Israel has no objections to European investments in the West Bank whether they are channeled through Israel or through Jordan. He noted that Jordan is interested in peace negotiations with Israel in the framework of an international forum and that Israel will soon have to deal with this, with or without American help.

According to Peres, the most constructive role Europe can play in the Middle East would be to encourage the parties to the dispute to enter into direct negotiations, and by economic assistance.

Peres assured the visitors that Israel supplied arms to Iran only at the request of the U.S. in an attempt to obtain the release of American hostages held by pro-Iranian groups in Lebanon. He described the Iranian regime of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini as an enemy of Israel and also of moderate Arab states.

Iraq is also an enemy of Israel because it hosts the Palestine Liberation Organization and is developing chemical weapons. Israel therefore has no interest in aiding either side in the Persian Gulf war or intervening in the fighting now going on in Lebanon, he said.

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