WASHINGTON (Apr. 22)
Further settlement of Soviet Jews in the West Bank “is not conducive to the general process of reconciliation” between Israelis and Arabs, French President Francois Mitterrand warned last week.
“It is not wise to multiply such settlements, because they give rise to a climate of uncertainty and lack of security,” Mitterrand said last Thursday at a joint news conference with President Bush in Key Largo, Fla.
But Mitterrand said France supports the unfettered emigration of Jews from the USSR.
“To place conditions on their destination and to ask the Soviet Union to sort people out on the basis of such criteria is something that is unacceptable,” he said.
Mitterrand also called for unrestricted emigration in a letter he sent earlier in the week to Israeli caretaker Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, who had asked for the French leader’s views on the subject. But the letter did not mention any opposition to the settlement of Soviet Jews in the territories.
Only about 175 Soviet Jews have settled in the West Bank in the last 12 months, according to officials at the Jewish Agency for Israel. Nevertheless, the issue of Jewish settlement in the disputed territory continues to be raised by leaders around the world.
While French and U.S. views on Soviet Jewish emigration are virtually identical, their positions differ on allowing government officials to speak with Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasir Arafat.
Mitterrand met with Arafat earlier this month, their second such contact. But Robert Pelletreau, the U.S. ambassador to Tunisia, is the only U.S. official permitted to speak with PLO representatives, and he has not met with Arafat.
On Thursday, Mitterrand praised the PLO for seeing “with lucidity what the new perspectives are” in moving toward peace. “I think that such a move on their part should not be discouraged,” he said.