New Defense Minister Visits Jewish Settlers in West Bank

One of the first acts of Moshe Arens after taking office as defense minister this week was to assure Jewish settlers in the West Bank that their safety “is our first priority.”

Arens, who was defense minister in 1982, visited the West Bank town of Ariel on Wednesday and the village of Ma’aleh Adumim on the Jerusalem-Jericho road.

He got warm welcomes, and it was duly noted that it was “no coincidence” that the West Bank was the choice of his first visit after being sworn in.

The settlers there have complained bitterly that the security forces fail to provide adequate protection against Palestinians who regularly throw stones and gasoline bombs at their cars.

But Arens stressed that while “the safety of the Jewish inhabitants of the region is our first priority,” he had no immediate solutions to offer.

“First, we want to study the situation and get the advice of the people directly involved and to hear the concerns of the people who live in the area, and then we will see what is to be done,” the defense minister said.

Arens also made the point that there was another “priority of moving forward to peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs in the area.”

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