LONDON (Jul. 2)
British Prime Minister John Major has called on the Arabs to abandon their trade boycott of Israel in exchange for curbs on Jewish settlements in the Israeli-administered territories.
He also expressed hope of following in Margaret Thatcher’s footsteps by becoming only the second British premier to visit Jerusalem.
Speaking on Tuesday, just a few hours before Britain assumed the presidency of the European Community, Major told members of the Conservative Friends of Israel, which includes some 30 members of Parliament, that the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are “a major impediment to the peace process.”
He said the E.C., under Britain’s leadership, would play an active role in the peace process, which would be given a “very high priority.”
The prime minister hoped the settlements would be curbed. “And in response,” he said, “I would expect the Arab states to life the iniquitous boycott on trade with Israel.”
The prime minister indicated that his government was happy with the Israeli election result, in which the Labor Party defeated the incumbent Likud, which has fostered Jewish settlements in the territories as a national priority.
“We have every reason to believe that the new government will be determined to make very early progress in the negotiations on autonomy arrangements and elections in the occupied territories,” he said. “This will be a very great fillip to the prospects for peace.”
“I believe that we now have the chance to further strengthen links with Israel, to build on the traditional friendship between our countries,” he said. “I also very much hope to visit Israel and meet the new prime minister.”
Cautioning that the E.C.’s influence should not be overestimated, Major advised, nevertheless, that “we ought to give our views on the solution of a problem, which carries such dangers for Europe and the rest of the world.”
In furtherance of peace, Major said he believed there would have to be agreement on three principles the security of Israel, self-determination for the Palestinians and a settlement that is not imposed.