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Thatcher Pushes ‘land for Peace’ in Warm Address to British Jews

February 21, 1990
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Israel should talk to Palestinians outside the administered territories and should be prepared to give up additional land for peace, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher told Jewish leaders here Sunday.

The problems in the Middle East “would become still worse if Israel settled Jews from the Soviet Union in the occupied territories,” the prime minister warned in an address to the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Thatcher’s 30-minute speech included an assessment of the situation of Jews in the Soviet Union and her view of German reunification.

The address was enthusiatically received by the Anglo-Jewish leaders, many of whom may not agree with her formula for Middle East peace.

“Israel needs to talk to representatives of the Palestinian people from inside the occupied territories and from outside,” Thatcher said.

“That is the only way progress is going to be made and a solution found to the tragic situation in the occupied territories, which is so hurtful to Israel’s reputation and standing in the world. We have always taken the view that land in return for a secure peace should be the basis for such a solution,” the prime minister added.

On the subject of Soviet Jews coming to Israel, Thatcher said, “We have all worked very hard to secure their right to emigrate. It would be a very ironic and unjust reward for all our efforts if their freedom were to be at the expense of the rights, the homes and the land of the people in the occupied territories.”


Thatcher observed that things are much better for Jews inside the Soviet Union under President Mikhail Gorbachev.

But some are still wrongfully imprisoned and there are still long-term refuseniks not allowed to leave the country, she said.

In addition, there are “worrying signs of anti-Semitic propaganda being put out by extremist organizations which have nothing to do with the Soviet government,” Thatcher said.

Nevertheless, her government has not yet decided whether Britain will attend the human rights conference to be hosted in Moscow next year, she said.

Thatcher used her address to the British Jewish leaders to signal a widely reported modification of her position on German “unification” as she called it, as opposed to “reunification” with 1937 frontiers. Those were the frontiers of the Third Reich that existed before the Anschluss with Austria.

Thatcher said unification would happen. But it “must take into account not only the feelings of the two German states, but the sensitivities and interests of others in Europe as well.

“Nor must it make any of us, in Eastern or Western Europe, or the Soviet Union, feel less secure,” she stressed.

Thatcher lauded “the contribution of the Jewish community to our national life.” It “has been quite outstanding, whether in the sciences, the arts, business or the professions,” she said.

Dr. Lionel Kopelowitz, president of the Board of Deputies, declared the group was “honored beyond measure” by the prime minister’s presence.

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