Thatcher praises Israel, faults response to Bosnia

September 21, 1992|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Britain's Margaret Thatcher was in Baltimore last night with praise for Israel's willingness to trade territory for peace in the Middle East and a little disdain for European failure to act more forcefully in the Balkans.

The former Conservative prime minister told a regional convention of the Jewish National Fund at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore that Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was "absolutely right" to offer the possibility of returning part of the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to Syria for a peace agreement with Israel's most staunch enemy.

The Israeli suggestion, controversial to many Israelis as well as their American supporters, has been the focal point of the latest Middle East peace negotiations in Washington.

Israel has made it clear that a return of former Syrian territory overlooking the Sea of Galilee would not occur without a full peace agreement with Syria, although the process could move in stages.

Lady Thatcher endorsed the strategy of step-by-step negotiations rather than trying to accomplish a comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace settlement. She dismissed "those who say you must have a comprehensive settlement" before peace can be achieved in the Middle East.

Lady Thatcher, who came here after addressing an economic conference in Washington, was less complimentary toward European leaders for their attempt to halt the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where 10,000 people are believed to have been killed since Serbian forces began a siege six months ago.

Addressing an aspect of the Balkans conflict particularly sensitive to Jews, she criticized European countries for not doing enough to stop the "horrific . . . ethnic cleansing" in Bosnia. "I feel guilty that civilized countries in Europe have not done more to stop it," she said. "You cannot fight tyranny with conferences and words."

The former British leader, now a baroness in the mostly ceremonial House of Lords, made her remarks at the annual fund-raising ball of the regional branch of the Jewish National Fund, held at the Hyatt Regency.

The dinner attracted about 800 people, and raised more than $300,000 for the Jewish National Fund, according to regional President David Nevins.

The event honored Baltimore Symphony Orchestra conductor David Zinman, philanthropist Zanvyl Krieger and Comcast Cablevision executive Stephen Burch.

The 90-year-old fund functions as a land development agency for Israel and is involved in tree-planting, the construction of dams and reservoirs, and new housing for immigrants.

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