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Negotiate, Says Bar Ilan Letter

March 25, 1988
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About 620 students and faculty members of Bar Ilan University presented a letter to President Chaim Herzog Thursday calling on the government to enter immediately into peace negotiations with Palestinian representatives.

Bar Ilan, a religiously oriented institution in Ramat Gan, is known to have right-wing nationalist elements. Student spokesman Aharon Samson said the signatories of the letter represented an unusual mix of Orthodox and secular Jewish students and faculty as well as Arabs.

“We want to show that in this university, also, there are people who are concerned by the present stalemate in any movement toward peace, both on our side and also on the part of the Arabs,” Samson said. He said the signatories also protested the use of Israel Defense Force soldiers as riot police in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Samson added the hope the political bent of the student signatories ought to impress the government with the need to start peace talks with the Palestinians.

President Chaim Herzog accepted the letter without comment. He noted, however, that he has received appeals from people of various political and ideological views, which illustrated the many facets of the Israeli polity.

There have been strong peace movements among students and faculty at other leading universities, notably the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University.

But at Tel- Aviv University, where the Labor Party won a resounding victory in the recent student council elections, several score students gathered Thursday to hear right-wing politicians denounce the Labor Party for supporting the new American peace initiative.

They carried placards calling for a firm stand against the peace package proposed by U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and the idea of trading territory for peace.

Member of Knesset Uzi Landau of Likud urged rejection of the Shultz plan as a response to the Arab uprising in the administered territories. “The Arabs have found that unrest is a sharp and harmful weapon that splits the Jews of Israel. They won’t give it up just because there is an international peace conference,” he said.

Former IDF Chief of Staff Rafael Eitan, the rightwing Tzomet representative in the Knesset, faulted the government for not acting swiftly and firmly at the outset of the disturbances to end them quickly. “But it is still not too late,” he said.

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