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June 9, 1981
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Meir Payil, leader of the Sheli movement, has believed since the Six-Day War that Israel should return the occupied Arab territories in exchange for peace. He pressed that belief at a time when it was inconceivable to most Israelis and their leaders that Egypt would ever approach Israel to make peace in return for its Sinai territory.

Payil is under no illusion that his peace message carries much weight at a time when the body politic is veering to the right and toward a hard line in foreign affairs. The faction appeals mainly to the young urbanintelligentsia and to some kibbutz members dissatisfied with their own parties. Another possible source of votes lies among Israeli Arabs who do not support the Communists and have lost confidence in the Labor Alignment. But what Payil likes to call his “peace camp” is shrinking.

Another supporter, Arye Eliav, has left politics for academia. The influential Yair Tzaban defected to the Labor Party. Payil’s partners now are an Arab, Walid Sadek Haj Yihya and Yigal Tumarkin, an artist. Sheli is the only party that calls for total withdrawal from the territories “except for minor border adjustments” and the establishment of a Palestinian state “if the Palestinian people so wish” with East Jerusalem as its capital within a single Jerusalem municipality.

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