Shamir Denies Scheme to Settle Soviet Jews in the Territories
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Shamir Denies Scheme to Settle Soviet Jews in the Territories

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Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir pleased American Jewish leaders Wednesday evening by reiterating that there is no deliberate plan to settle new Soviet immigrants in the administered territories.

“Let me state once again that it is not the policy of the government of Israel to direct the olim to the areas of Judea, Samaria and Gaza. Nor are there special incentives for those that do go there,” Shamir told the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

But he also said that new immigrants are free to settle wherever they like.

“If anyone expects me to say that we shall forbid any Jew from going to Judea, Samaria or elsewhere — I shall never do that. The olim have complete freedom of choice,” he said, using the biblical names for the West Bank.

His statements received thunderous applause from members of the conference, who were attending the closing banquet of its annual three-day Israel seminar.

American Jewish leaders reportedly had been pressing the prime minister to issue a clear statement that would calm Arab fears that Israel plans to populate the administered territories with Soviet immigrants, thereby displacing Palestinian residents.

It was remarks by Shamir declaring that a “big Israel” was needed to absorb the Soviet immigration that first touched off Arab fears, which have since caught the attention of both the Soviet and U.S. governments.

But the prime minister told his listeners Wednesday night that the Arabs were now waging a “hysterical” publicity campaign against Soviet aliyah, and he exhorted the American Jewish leaders to help him fight it.

“To my regret,” Shamir said, “Jordan has taken the lead in this campaign.”


He followed with a warning that Israel would not countenance any Arab states attempting to curtail Soviet Jewish immigration. Any nation that does so “cannot be regarded as a candidate for peace,” he said.

Shamir declared that Israel will “say to all the Arab countries — including Egypt — that anyone who fights against this aliyah reveals himself as an enemy of Israel, for it is impossible not to understand that for Israel, aliyah is the essence and the substance of life.”

The prime minister also spoke about the peace process and hinted that he was not yet prepared to accept the inclusion of East Jerusalem residents or deportees in the Palestinian delegation that is to hold preliminary talks with Israel.

“We are being pressed to agree to the participation of Palestinians who live outside” the administered territories, “as well as some who are in Jerusalem,” Shamir said, in an apparent reference to U.S. Secretary of State. James Baker’s latest proposal.

“We shall not permit any action that will cast any doubt on the status of united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital or that could undermine the position of our eternal capital,” he said.

The Likud leader also said, “We will not be a party to any attempt that will bring the PLO into the process through the back door.”

The Palestine Liberation Organization is believed to have endorsed the idea of including Palestinians once deported from the territories in peace talks, as representatives of a larger “Palestinian diaspora.”

Shamir urged his listeners to pay attention to all four points of his May 1989 peace plan, which among other things calls on Arab states to sign a peace treaty with Israel.

“Concentrating on only the last point–elections in Judea, Samaria and Gaza — will not end the conflict. It might even expose us to bigger security dangers,” he said.

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