Shamir Puts Best Face on Dispute in Address to U.S. Jewish Leaders

Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir tried to put the best face this week on Israel’s disagreements with Washington over the issue of U.S. loan guarantees and Israeli settlements in the administered territories.

“Obviously, we have our differences with the U.S. from time to time,” Shamir told visiting members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“But I am confident that the basic character of our close relations will not change,” he said.

The prime minister appeared to respond directly to those American Jewish leaders who have counseled the Israeli government to be more flexible on its settlement policy, in order to win U.S. backing for the immigrant absorption loans.

“My friends,” he said, “I want to say frankly to you, who work so hard to strengthen the relations between the United States and Israel, that I fail to understand the connection between the absorption of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and the continued development of Judea, Samaria and the Gaza District.”

Nonetheless, Shamir stated that “any funds received with the assistance of loan guarantees will not be used in the areas of question; nor will we direct Jews from the Soviet Union to those parts of Eretz Yisrael.”

The prime minister, looking dapper in a dark suit and tie, was the first of several Israeli politicians to address the Conference of Presidents delegation, which was in Jerusalem for its annual study mission.

Yitzhak Rabin, newly elected head of the Labor Party, who was also smartly dressed, spoke to the 60-member delegation directly afterward.

While Shamir spoke of his devotion to the territories, Rabin focused on Jerusalem, which he called “the heart and soul of the Jewish people.”

He said he does not oppose continued building of housing in “Greater Jerusalem.” But he called all settlements that are not built directly along “the lines of confrontation” with Arab countries “an obstacle to peace.”

The group also heard speeches by Foreign Minister David Levy, Housing Minister Ariel Sharon, former Labor Party leader Shimon Peres and members of the left-wing bloc representing Mapam, Shinui and the Citizens Rights Movement.

NEXT STORY