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Tehiya Leader Says Lack of Settlements on the West Bank Would Constitute Obstacle to Peace

April 26, 1983
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Geula Cohen, a leader of Israel’s ultra-nationalist Tehiya party, declared here that rather than Israeli settlements on the West Bank being obstacles to peace, the lack of such settlements would constitute such an obstacle.

“A Palestinian state is an obstacle to peace,” Cohen, one of Tehiya’s three Knesset members, stressed at a meeting with several Jewish media reporters at the Israel Embassy last Thursday. “A Palestinian state is an obstacle to peace” because it would lead to increased Soviet penetration in the Middle East, she said.

Cohen, who is in the U.S. to speak to students and persons considering aliya, presented her views here to members of Congress and to State Department officials, including Elliott Abrams, Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. She said that several of the Congressmen appeared to sympathize with her views but that Abrams listened and expressed no opinion.

The “mistaken” and “lousy policy” of the U.S. is allowing the Soviet Union to gain greater influence in the Middle East, Cohen charged. She said Israel has “given in to stay friends with the U.S.” but by making concessions to Washington “we weaken ourselves and are less of an asset to the U.S.”


Cohen said her dream for the Middle East is “neutralization” from both superpowers. But since this is not possible now, she preferred friendship with the U.S. because as a Jew she “shares” common values with the U.S. But she noted that if U.S. policy leads to a Palestinian state and an increased Soviet threat, then perhaps Israel should seek friendship with the Soviet Union. She said Israel’s “first value is to be alive” and then it can think about democracy and other factors.

Cohen suggested that perhaps the “price” of the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut last week has been a “lesson” for the State Department that while it seeks to win over the Arabs at Israel’s expense, instead of receiving “flowers — they get bombs. But I’m not sure they will learn this lesson,” Cohen said.

She added that when King Hussein of Jordan rejected President Reagan’s proposals to enter the peace negotiations, Reagan said he “understood” Jordan’s reasons, but when Israel rejected the Reagan peace initiative, it was castigated throughout the world. In addition, Cohen charged, Reagan is now suggesting that what Jordan needs to enter negotiations is Syria’s approval and to get this the President is promising Syria the Golan Heights.

According to Cohen, Syria is not concerned about the Golan Heights or the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. She said what Syria wants is “the settlement which is called the State of Israel.”

Cohen stressed that Israel would not freeze settlements on the West Bank even if Premier Menachem Begin wanted to — which he doesn’t — she said. She claimed that her three-member Tehiya Knesset faction along with Rabbi Haim Druckman, the Gush Emunim leader who broke from the National Religious Party, “will not let the government do so.” She said that she and the three other MKs provide the majority for Begin’s 64-member coalition.

Cohen, who said she favored annexation of the West Bank, complained that the government is going too slow in building settlements there. She was a long-time disciple of Begin but quit his Herut party over the Camp David agreements. She opposed the return of Sinai to Egypt and the dismantling of Jewish settlements there both in the Knesset and at demonstrations at the settlement sites.

She told the Jewish media reporters that she still opposes the autonomy plan because it requires negotiations on sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza after a five-year period. Cohen said she is “not for discussing our sovereignty” at any time.

According to Cohen, the only “illegal settlements” are not those on the West Bank but those of Zionists in the diaspora.


On Lebanon, Cohen stressed that “I don’t want an inch of Lebanon.” But she maintained that as long as Syria remains in Lebanon, Israel must retain south Lebanon as a security zone. She said the U.S. marines could not provide security for the area because once “a shot is fired they will run away.”

Cohen said the U.S. role in Lebanon has been “entirely negative.” She said Israel should not have allowed the U.S. to participate in the negotiations which should have been entirely between Israel and Lebanon. She said Israel is accused of violating Lebanon’s sovereignty because its army is in Lebanon, yet Lebanon claims it cannot have a peace treaty with Israel because other Arab countries are opposed.

According to Cohen, with normalization between Israel and Lebanon and open borders, there will be security, “Not normal means war in the Middle East,” she said.

Cohen’s other passion is the fight for Soviet Jewry. She said she is trying to impress upon the U.S. government that it is wrong to allow into the U.S. as refugees, Soviet Jews who left the USSR with visas to Israel and then decided to go to the U.S. She charged that some American Zionist leaders support this refugee classification, adding that perhaps it is because they themselves feel guilty for not having gone to Israel.

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